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Just Above My Head Paperback – June 13, 2000
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"If Van Gogh was our 19th-century artist-saint, James Baldwin is our 20th-century one."
"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 alternate Paperback edition.
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Narrated in the first person by Arthur's older brother Hall, this is an epic story of a life fully lived, beginning in the period between World War II and Korea and continuing right through the horrors of the Civil Rights struggle of the Sixties.
In addition to the Montana family, Baldwin peoples his novel with a large cast of vivid characters: Red, Crunch, and Peanut, who with Arthur form the first Gospel quartet to appear on the scene while Arthur is just fifteen, and the Miller family, friends of the Montanas whose nine-year-old daughter Julia is a child evangelist at the beginning of the story.
Julia is one of the most fascinating female characters in Twentieth Century literature; starting out as a child preacher (and a spoiled brat at home), she endures the premature death of her mother and the horror of incest at the hands of her father, and even spends some time as a prostitute before finally making use of the fact that she grows up beautiful to become a successful model.
Yet it is still Arthur who is the center of the story; while he never seems troubled by his sexuality, he does worry about being judged by those he loves; this makes accepting love something of a struggle for him.
The miracle of this novel is that every character is fully fleshed out and given a complete back story, a rarity in a novel with such a large cast of characters. And this, coupled with Baldwin's soaring, lyrical narrative, makes JUST ABOVE MY HEAD a unique experience that will stay with you long after you read it.
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This review has only to do with the audiobook, though.Read more