Drawing on James Baldwin’s own boyhood in a religious community in 1930s Harlem, his first novel tells the story of young Johnny Grimes. Johnny is destined to become a preacher like his father, Gabriel, at the Temple of the Fire Baptized, where the church swells with song and it is as if ‘the Holy Ghost were riding on the air’. But he feels only scalding hatred for Gabriel, whose fear and fanaticism lead him to abuse his family. Johnny vows that, for him, things will be different. This blazing tale is full of passion and guilt, of secret sinners and prayers singing on the wind.
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