Which author wrote the novel "Giovanni's Room" published in 1956?
And the answer: James Baldwin.
James Baldwin was an important literary voice during the 1950s and 1960s. Giovanni’s Room is his best-known novel along with Go Tell It on the Mountain and his many speeches.
Born August 2, 1924, James Baldwin grew up in Harlem, New York as the eldest of nine children. In high school, Baldwin began to make himself known as a youth minister, while honing his writing skills in the school's literary magazine— publishing poems, short stories and plays. Meanwhile, Baldwin grew conflicted about this role in the church. To Baldwin, the church's stance on racial inequality and homosexuality did not align with his own, and the critical thinking required of him as a minister and writer only furthered this internal divide.
Yet, after completing high school, Baldwin only continued to enrich his thinking. Upon realizing there wasn't much work for him in New York, the young activist promptly relocated to Paris on a writing fellowship. Baldwin continued to write feverishly, and he soon published his first novel: Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953). Set in Harlem, the book mirrors Baldwin's own internal reckoning with the role of the church and social justice issues. The novel proved to be a success with both black and white readers, and Baldwin continued to pour his thoughts into nuanced essays such as "Notes of a Native Son" and "The Fire Next Time."
Although Baldwin spent most of his life in France, his voice resounded in the growing Civil Rights Movement. Baldwin held fast to the belief that, social strife affected the souls and minds of all the nation's people, not just some. More aptly stated by Baldwin himself:
"People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them."
Baldwin traveled through the American south as an activist, attending rallies and giving lectures of his own. Baldwin was unafraid to debate both white politicians and black activists, and often acted as a liaison to each side.
Learn more about the life and legacy of the incredible James Baldwin here.