Prompt #2

Baldwin’s work is enjoyable to read. He is very concise with his explanations (most of the time). The events are realistic and therefore easy to picture. According to Alexander Hardy (whose article can be read in full here:, “Sir Baldwin’s words sing on the page. His explanations and descriptions are so lyrically precise that they leave no room for ambiguity”. James Baldwin is straightforward, yet creative enough to be memorable. His characters leave deep impressions on readers and stir emotions deep within the soul. He is different from what I have read, as I have never explored queer literature before. Reading Giovanni’s Room has not been a chore for me. Normally, I despite required reading with a passion. With the exception of The Outsiders in 8th grade, I have dreaded school book assignments. Books have been either so depression or so abstract (or both), that I have been unable to relate. I used to seek out books to read on my own, but I find it difficult to dive into books I picked up from the library. I often found them cliché or boring. Giovanni’s Room pleasantly surprised me. I ended up finishing it before schedule because I wanted to figure out what happened to David and Giovanni. The paragraph where David describes is fear of how other people will react after he sleeps with Joey was heart wrenching.

my heart it hurts.jpg


The text discusses the impact of social expectations on an individual’s self-image. James Baldwin dares to break from social norms and promote acceptance of diversity. After sleeping with Joey, David is overwhelmed with guilt and fear:

“A cavern opened in my mind, black, full of rumor, suggestion, of half-heard, half-forgotten, half-understood stories, full of dirty words. I thought I saw my future in that cavern. I was afraid. I could have cried, cried for shame and terror, cried for not understanding how this could have happened to me, how this could have happened in me” (9).

Because being queer was not accepted in the 1950s and 60s, David feels deeply ashamed of his relationship with Joey. He worries that their actions will affect his future and the way his father (and society as a whole) sees him. He deeply fears being known and when he meets Giovanni, he is completely unsure how to handle the situation. Jacques tells him

“You play it safe long enough…and you’ll end up trapped in your own dirty body, forever and forever and forever—like me” (57).

David has spent his entire life “playing it safe”, trying to fit into a societal box. He has never opened up to anyone for fear of being rejected. Because society tells him it is wrong to be queer, he believes something inside of him is inherently wrong. James Baldwin meant to correct this notion. Nothing about David is wrong; he is who he is.

“If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy,” [Baldwin] said in a 1969 interview when asked if gayness was an aberration, asserting that such views were an indication of narrowness and stagnation.”

-(source: Through his novels, James Baldwin challenged societal perceptions of queerness. He wanted to overcome general bigotry and provide readers with a sense of empathy and acceptance for the queer community.







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