What Do I Read Next?
Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison's 1992 novel Jazz takes place in Harlem in the 1920s and gives a stylized sense of how the community felt and operated.
James Baldwin is even more respected as one of the great essayists of his time than for his fiction. The comprehensive collection The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948-1985, offers the best of Baldwin's works in one huge volume.
In December 1971, Baldwin appeared on the television show "Soul" with young rising poet Nikki Giovanni, known then for her militant stand on racial issues. The transcript of their conversation about the state of race relations in America was published as a book in 1973 titled A Dialog. A similarly interesting conversation, also transcribed to book form in 1971, is A Rap On Race, which renders the exchange between Baldwin and white anthropologist Margaret Mead.
In 1989, after James Baldwin's death, Simon & Schuster published a collection of essays, poems, and memoirs about him from writers whose life he had touched. The collection, James Baldwin: The legacy, contains short works by such well-known authors as Toni Morrison Amiri Baraka William Styron Chinua Achebe Mary McCarthy and more, collectively giving a picture of Baldwin's gentle intelligence.
Giovanni's Room, Baldwin's second novel, published in 1956, is generally not considered a masterpiece in the same realm as Go Tell It on the Mountain, but it is highly regarded nonetheless. It is the story of David, an American student in France and the torrid relationship that develops between him and a local barkeep, Giovanni. Many of the same social themes from the first novel are explored here, without the backdrop of American social mores.
Of the dozens of biographies written about Baldwin, two stand out: James Baldwin: Artist on Fire, by W J. Weatherby, published in 1989, and Talking At the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin, by James Campbell (1991). Campbell's book is more sympathetic to Baldwin, since the author was an acquaintance of Baldwin's, while Weatherby is more academic. Both books, published soon after Baldwin's death, are heavily supported with interviews from people who knew him well.