The electrifying first vel from James Baldwin, whose life and words are immortalized in the Oscar-minated film I Am Not Your Negro 'I had to deal with what hurt me most. I had to deal with my father.' Drawing on James Baldwin's own boyhood in a religious community in 1930s Harlem, his first vel 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. 'A beautiful, enduring, spirtual song of a vel' Andrew O'Hagan 'With vivid imagery, with lavish attention to details, Mr. Baldwin has told his feverish story' The New York Times
Born in Harlem in 1924, Baldwin had an early career as a teenage preacher. He lived in Paris from 1948-1956 and his first novels, the autobiographical GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN and GIOVANNI'S ROOM established him as a promising novelist and anticipated some of the themes of his later works, such as racism and sexuality. He became a prominent spokesperson for racial equality, especially during the civil rights movement. He lived in France during his last years. Baldwin died in 1987.