Ballerina Book Club Classic Pick: James Baldwin’s ‘Giovanni’s Room’

Ballerina Book Club Classic Pick: James Baldwin’s ‘Giovanni’s Room’

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Hello Ballerina Book Club readers,

We’re adding some classics to our repertoire.

Every three months, we’ll be announcing a Ballerina Book Club Classic pick. Using the selection as a jumping-off point, we’ll be taking an in-depth dive into the selected authors, their work and their enduring influence on literature and society today.

Our first read of the series is James Baldwin’s second novel, “Giovanni’s Room.” Penned in 1956 while the author was living in France, the novel twists around the love, desire and shame felt by an American in Paris, who falls for a bartender named Giovanni. Notably, the characters in the novel are all white, a choice that writer Colm Tóibín wrote “came as a surprise” to Baldwin’s editors at Knopf who expected him to stick to “Harlem life.”

In an oft-cited interview with Jordan Elgrably, published by the Paris Review in 1984, Baldwin explained that he “could not handle both propositions” of sexuality and race in the same book. “I certainly could not possibly have — not at that point in my life — handled the other great weight, the ‘Negro problem.’ The sexual-moral light was a hard thing to deal with.”

We’ll be taking a closer look at “Giovanni’s Room” in the upcoming weeks. Be sure to check back for more.

In the meantime, tell us your favorite Baldwin book over on our Goodreads page.


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