Just Above My Head

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Just Above My Head
JustAboveMyHead.jpg
First edition
Author James Baldwin
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Dial Press
Publication date
1979
Pages 597
ISBN 0-8037-4777-2

Just Above My Head is James Baldwin's sixth novel, first published in 1979.

Plot introduction[edit]

The novel tells the life story of a group of friends, from preaching in Harlem, through to experiencing 'incest, war, poverty, the civil-rights struggle, as well as wealth and love and fame—in Korea, Africa, Birmingham, New York City, Paris.'[1]

Characters[edit]

  • Arthur Montana, a homosexual who becomes worldfamous "Emperor of Soul". He started out in a quartet, the Trumpets of Zion.
  • Hall Montana, Arthur's brother, a married man in his forties.
  • Ruth Granger, Hall's wife. Hall met her at a fundraiser.
  • Paul Montana, Arthur and Hall's late father. He was born in Tallahassee, Florida, grew up in New Orleans, moved to California and finally to New York City.
  • Florence Montana, Hall and Arthur's mother.
  • Tony, Hall's son.
  • Odessa, Hall's daughter.
  • Faulkner, a masochistic white man Arthur knew.
  • Crunch, Arthur's lover. He was a member of the Trumpets of Zion. His real name was Jason Hogan.
  • Red, a member of the Trumpets of Zion. He has become a drug addict and been to prison several times.
  • Lorna, Red's wife. She has left him, with their two sons.
  • Peanut, a member of the Trumpets of Zion. He was later murdered.
  • Jimmy, a neighbour of the Halls when they were younger.
  • Julia, Jimmy's sister.
  • Brother Joel Miller
  • Amy Miller, Julia's and Jimmy's mother. She dies shortly after a miscarriage.
  • Reverend Parker, Julia's Evangelist reverend when she was younger.
  • Mrs Bessie, a blind old black woman whom Julia took to the church when she was younger.
  • Sidney, a bartender. He was brought up by his grandmother, who died recently.
  • Martha, a young woman who works at the Harlem Hospital. She is Hall's ex-girlfriend. Her aunt, Josephine, is from the West Indies.
  • Mr Clarence Webster, a black music teacher and impresario for the Trumpets of Zion.
  • Sister Dorothy Green.
  • Blanche, Hall's landlady.
  • Faulkner Grey, a coworker of Hall's.
  • Mrs Isabel Reed, a high school teacher from Richmond.
  • Mr Reed, a lawyer from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
  • Reverend Williams, a preacher from Richmond.
  • Mrs Elkins, a hostess in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Guy Lazar, a ginger-haired French man Arthur dates in Paris.

Major themes[edit]

The novel enmeshes racism with homophobia, with an 'explicit association of Birmingham and Sodom.'[2][3]

Allusions to other works[edit]

Allusions to actual history[edit]

Literary significance and criticism[edit]

It has been suggested that the novel links the trope of the internalisation of history to what W. E. B. Du Bois defined as the African American's 'longing to attain self-conscious manhood.'[4]

It has been suggested that Crunch subscribes to the idea propounded by Auguste Ambroise Tardieu and Cesare Lombroso that homosexuality was inscribed upon a homosexual's flesh,[5] when he wonders, "if his change was visible".[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ New York Times, Just Above My Head by John Romano, September 23, 1979 [1]
  2. ^ James Baldwin, Just Above My Head, New York: Dell Publishing, 1984, page 183
  3. ^ Lee Edelman, Homographesis: essays in gay literary and cultural theory, Routledge, New York & London, 1994, page 67
  4. ^ Lee Edelman, Homographesis: essays in gay literary and cultural theory, Routledge, New York & London, 1994, page 62
  5. ^ Lee Edelman, Homographesis: essays in gay literary and cultural theory, Routledge, New York & London, 1994, page 5 and 69
  6. ^ James Baldwin, Just Above My Head, New York: Dell Publishing, 1984, page 226