Just Above My Head is narrated by Hall Montana and deals with his memories of his beloved brother Arthur as well as of friends and other relatives. There is a deliberate contrast between the lifestyles and attitudes of the older generation of African Americans, consisting of the parents of Hall and Arthur Montana and Julia and Jimmy Miller, and those of the younger generation. Though still stigmatized by racial prejudice, the young people have better opportunities to achieve financial success and self-realization. Hall’s memoirs mainly concern the struggles of Arthur, Julia, and himself to survive and grow in a white-dominated society.
The story begins two years after Arthur’s death but immediately flashes back to the days of his and Hall’s childhood, at the beginning of the Korean War. All the young men in the story live under the shadow of the draft. Hall is eventually drafted and loses touch with the other characters while he is serving in Korea.
One of the most important people in the lives of Arthur and Hall is Julia Miller, who at the age of eleven is inspired by the Holy Ghost and is in constant demand as a preacher at black fundamentalist churches. The book is flavored with many excerpts from Julia’s sermons as well as abundant quotations from traditional gospel hymns. Baldwin attempts to give his work the feeling of a musical composition, thereby suggesting that music has played a large part in the survival of African...
(The entire section is 565 words.)