At least four of the characters in Just Above My Head are projections of the author himself. Hall Montana is Baldwin the novelist. Hall is a conservative heterosexual who works at conventional jobs and becomes a devoted father to two children. At one time in his life, Baldwin seriously considered getting married and trying to overcome his homosexual tendencies through leading a conventional life involving marriage and a steady job. He decided that such a course would be unfair to himself and to any woman he married. He could not continue to deny his homosexuality, and he could not indenture himself to the routine job and financial responsibilities that marriage would entail. Instead, he moved to Paris and led a precarious existence for many years as a freelance writer.
Arthur Montana, the gospel singer, is Baldwin the homosexual artist and has Baldwin’s middle name as his first name. Like Baldwin, Arthur is an acknowledged homosexual who has no intention of leading a conventional heterosexual life. Like Baldwin, Arthur goes to Europe and finds himself happier and more creative in the artistic world of Paris. Baldwin moved to Europe early in his career because the stigma of being black in the United States made him so angry and humiliated that he felt unable to be creative. He lived in France for most of his life and eventually was honored by being appointed a member of the Legion of Honor, the highest honor that can be given an artist in France.
Julia Miller, the most intriguing character in the book, is Baldwin the preacher....
(The entire section is 637 words.)