Tuma Book Rant: Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

Giovanni's Room - Book ReviewI've been wanting to read more Baldwin for a long time (along with Morrison, Walker, and a few other "Classic" Black writers) and Giovanni's Room in particular has been on my radar for the Queer themes.

However, I didn't expect the narrator to be a white man... 🤔. I'd thought Baldwin wrote only black characters. 🤷🏾‍♀️ My own ignorance, I guess. It did take me a bit to readjust though.

There's LOTS of French throughout the novel as the main character is an American living in Paris. My high school French is very rusty, so all of the French without enough context was a bit frustrating. It was tempting to look terms up on Google Translate, but that would have kept interrupting my reading so I didn't.

As I was reading, I was not invested or connected to the characters, but I also think they were meant to be a little detestable. I sensed Baldwin was trying to present a message here about how people appear to be better than they actually are.

Despite all of these seemingly "shortcomings", I remained hooked, in a soap opera sort of way, simply to see how things implode in the end.

And when I got to the ending, it left me . . . unsettled? Not sure if that's the right word. I felt I'd just finished reading something profound, but wasn't sure how I felt about it. Did I "like" it or not, in simple terms? I can't say. Will Giovanni & James take up room in a brain for a while? Yes, must definitely.

Giovanni's Room won't be for everyone, but I recommend that everyone give it a try if they happen to come across it. The only other work by Baldwin I've read is If Beale Street Could Talk, which I enjoyed better but didn't love. Plan on giving Go Tell It on the Mountain before I firmly determine if Baldwin is for me.

LET'S CHAT: What did you think of Giovanni's Room? Which of Baldwin's works do you recommend most?

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