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Just Above My Head Paperback – June 13, 2000


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Frequently Bought Together

Just Above My Head + If Beale Street Could Talk + James Baldwin : Collected Essays : Notes of a Native Son / Nobody Knows My Name / The Fire Next Time / No Name in the Street / The Devil Finds Work / Other Essays (Library of America)
Price for all three: $44.75

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (June 13, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385334567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385334563
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #431,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"If Van Gogh was our 19th-century artist-saint, James Baldwin is our 20th-century one."
--Michael Ondaatje

"The work of a born storyteller at the height of his powers...  glimpses of family life in Harlem, rapturous music-making in the churches, moments of uneasiness in even the most casual meetings between whites and blacks--scenes that Baldwin seems preternaturally gifted in understanding."
--The New York Times Book Review

"A fine novel...it seems impossible for [Baldwin] to write with anything other than eloquence.  His great and peculiar power is to re-create the maddening halfway house that the black man finds himself in late-twentieth-century America."
--The New Yorker

From the Publisher

The stark grief of a brother mourning a brother opens this novel with a stunning, unforgettable experience. Here, in a monumental saga of love and rage, Baldwin goes back to Harlem, to a church of his groundbreaking novel Go Tell It On The Mountain, to the homosexual passion of Giovanni's Room, and to the political fire that enflames his nonfiction work. Here, too, the story of gospel singer Arthur Hall and his family becomes both a journey into another country of the soul and senses--and a living contemporary history of black struggle in this land.

"A work of passion... Glimpses of family life in Harlem, rapturous music-making in the churches, movements of uneasiness in even the most casual meetings between whites and blacks--scenes that Baldwin seems preternaturally gifted in understanding."--The New York Times Book Review.

"His great and peculiar power is to re-create the maddening halfway house that the black man finds himself in in late-twentieth century America." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Baldwin created a masterpiece!
tramp
A stirring story of two brothers desperately seeking to find themselves and a true identity outside of the religious world they had been so immersed in...
Timothy A. Dillinger
This is one of the best written, most beautiful books I've ever read.
Frank Cunat

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Frank Cunat on January 10, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is one of the best written, most beautiful books I've ever read. If any one book could be said to distill James Baldwin's entire life, this could be it, at least among his fiction. The sense of love, compassion, and empathy Baldwin has for his characters is tangible. Many of the passages are poetic in their power; Baldwin excels at finding the nuance, the meanings in a gesture, a glance, a touch. Baldwin was a black gay man but I believe that in this book he has transcended both race and sex, and is writing about something more basic and yet more complex: relationships between *human beings*. For those who grew up in the 1960s and 70s, it's impossible to overstate the impact Baldwin had on many of our lives (even in my case, and I'm Caucasian).
I was lucky enough to hear Baldwin lecture 20 years ago; Just Above My Head had been out for about a year and I was able to get my copy autographed and personalized. He was as arresting a speaker as he was a writer.
In the short list of the most deeply felt, most moving, most powerful books written in the 20th century, this has to come near the top.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 27, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When I read this book for the first time I was so deeply moved that I was left ranting and raving to all of my friends who share a passion for great American literature. Baldwin's even-handed, almost objective analysis of the American preoccupation with race and human sexuality leaves the reader with a changed perspective on being American. Too many books have love and politics central to their themes, however Baldwin takes this overworked subject matter and creates something truly original and timeless
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
I first came across the book as a teenager, rooting around amidst the books my brother left behind. I was just coming out then, and decided to try and read it. Much of it flew over my head then, but upon returning to it as an adult, I found much here to treasure. The characters not only inhabit the pages, but leap right off them at times, and the reader feels like he would want to sit in a room with them, talk with them, laugh with them and grieve with them. As a black gay man, it's nearly an autobiographical read, showing how far ahead of his time Baldwin was. It definitely comes highly recommended from this reader.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ritakin on August 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
I hate to be the dissenting voice among all the rapturous reviews, but as much as I love James Baldwin, I had a hard time getting through "Just Above My Head." The man could write like a dream, no question about that. The problem here is that because Baldwin insists on having his characters muse on the black condition, the white condition, the history of race relations in America, the novel loses any narrative tension. There are simply too many interruptive elements in narration and dialogue. Then there is the questionable use of the brother, Hall, as a narrator. Hall writes about the sexual goings on between his brother and other characters. How could he know this? Unless I am mistaken, aren't narrators limited to what they have observed? I understand that Baldwin is using Hall as a sort of omniscient third person voice. However, because Hall is writing about intimate sexual details, his knowledge of them taints the narrative with a trace of incredulity. Then there are all the tedious references to people getting up and sitting down, entering and leaving places, and pouring endless drinks and visiting countless bars. I realize the novel takes place in another era, but all of that drinking got tiresome.

Maybe because Baldwin was such a great writer, no editor thought to comment on his storytelling style. Arthur's story is the most intriguing--although one could make a case for Julia's, as well--but the novel is so fragmented and the dialogue is so discursive that whatever emotional impact we should feel at the story's end is dulled. I also found it somewhat unbelievable that a man like Hall, from such a conservative era, would have so willingly approved of his brother's homosexuality.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 16, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The people of Just Above My Head-- all of them, not just Julia, or Hall, or Arthur-- but the "little" characters too, all live truly as one reads. I've lost track of how many times I've read the book in its entirety, much less in bits and pieces, but every time I go down into it these characters overwhelm me. I can smell them, feel their heat. Absolutely one of my favorite books of all time.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
Probably one of the more underappreciated novels in American literature. It is unfair to charecterize Baldwin as merely a social critic of the civil rights era. He stands alongside Dickens as one of the great writers of any era, with the ability to articualte an understanding of human nature that trancends any era and stands second to none.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Timothy A. Dillinger on February 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
Highly recommended...This is an "intense" read...and you will find yourself going back and re-reading certain pages to make sure that you absorbed everything from the page. A stirring story of two brothers desperately seeking to find themselves and a true identity outside of the religious world they had been so immersed in...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Henry Walker on March 3, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
James Baldwin's voice creates a rich portrait to accompany the tale of a family atmosphere and all the forces that converge on them as friends, lovers, and kin. The cast of characters speak through their actions, allowing you to feel the "holy ghost" that the child-turned-preacher Julia could send through a church as well as the vocal harmony of a group of young black men who go on a singing tour of the south in a time where lynching was a pasttime of small town racists. I read this for the first time a mere seven years ago, and since then have read it again and again for the simple fact that you can pick up so much direct and indirect emotions, actions, and premises by hearing the main cast--Arthur, Julia, and Hall, as well as those they come into contact with as they all make their way towards finding a balance between the small line between existence and nonexistence historically for Afro-Americans. "Just Above My Head" reads like an almanac of people, places, and things that get lost in the romantic "good old days" that too many of our literary genius are guilty of promoting while ignoring the "have nots" of society. This book is a staple for me, and I know I'm not the only one, so if you haven't read it, then do so.
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