March 04, 2018

Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin | Book Review

There are eight short stories in Going to Meet the Man. The first is The Rockpile, a tale of a small family and its abusive patriarch. In The Outing a young black adolescent boy bears the weight of a yet to be fully understood secret that makes him different from the other boys. In The Man Child Eric and his parents celebrate the birthday of his father's childhood friend, Jamie. Jamie, who just turned thirty-four, is "old" and has no wife, kids or property. The tension that bubbles beneath the surface during the birthday dinner doesn't forewarn us of the evil darkness that ends this tale. In Previous Conditions a struggling black actor is broke, alone and frustrated. In Sonny's Blues two brothers try hard to understand each other after the death of their mother. The African American singer in This Morning, This Evening, So Soon readies himself for a trip back home after years of being abroad. Come to the Wilderness is an engaging story of a woman reflecting on all the hurt she's holding on to and all of her choices. It has some of the best, most moving lines in this collection. The last story is the titular Going to Meet the Man which isn't at all the sexual rendezvous its name suggests. In this upsetting story a racist sheriff lies in bed reminiscing on a life changing public event he witnessed while perched atop his fathers' shoulders.

I love the first two stories because of its protagonist Johnnie who's lovable, confused and perilously close to his first heartbreak. The first two stories also brought back childhood memories of the pious persons I used to know. The Man Child story hurt and Come Out the Wilderness was sad. I interrupted my reading of Going to Meet the Man to search for the song Glory by Common & John Legend. I listened to it on iTunes, watched Yolanda Adams' mind-blowing cover on YouTube, then watched the Common/John Legend performance of the song at the Oscars before then returning to read the final three pages of the story. It's very important that African migrants continuously educate themselves on America's history. We need constant reminders that the freedoms we currently enjoy were fought for and paid for with human lives. This is a great short story collection. Fifteen months after I bought it off Amazon I finally read this book and I can proudly say I've read something by the revered James Baldwin. You should read this.
This is my fourth and final book pick for my literary celebration of Black History Month. READ my reviews of Gabrielle Union's We're Going to Need More Wine, Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing, and Junot Diaz's Drown

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