Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin Discussion

Discussion in 'Books, Comics and Graphic Novels' started by scooter, Feb 20, 2016.

  1. scooter

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    Hello everyone I hope everyone is doing well. First, thanks to all who participate in this thread and the "book club" b/c I know time is of the essence when it comes to life. Judging from the poll I posted last month the most popular book most people voted to read is The Mis-Education Against Homosexuality in the Bible by author Gregory R. Smith. The cheapest route to get the book is to open Kindle account and purchase an e-book version for $9.95, or you can go the traditional route and purchase a hardcopy of the book via Amazon. However, you should know there are only 11 used copies available and the new copies range anywhere between $50 to $90.

    Now onto Giovanni's Room (1956) lively book discussion. I must forewarn everybody I'm using an e-book copy from Nook, so my page numbers may be a little different from those of you who are using a hardcopy or Kindle. The way that I want us to run this book discussion is to apply concepts we read about in the book to contemporary period. Therefore, anyone who hasn't read the book and want to participate can interject their opinions about how SGL men often approach life, friendships, and relationships.

    For those of you who weren't able to read the book click here to read the general synopsis. However, for those of you who were able to read the book several themes came up in the book that dealt with family issues, heteronormative lifestyle, social isolation, racism, and sexual identity. One of the things that often came up was David the main character's struggle with his sexual identity. David met Joey who he wound up having sexual intercourse with, but after the whole ordeal David started treating Joey like crap due to his sexual confusion about being gay. Why is it that some guys don't want to live in their truth about their sexual identity? Do some SGL often see guys as just another sexual object when it comes to lifestyle or was David bisexual at best? Why is it that some SGL men do not want to be labeled as gay or bisexual? Is sexuality just that fluid when it comes to the black community?

    Furthermore, David brought up his relationship with Hella to Giovanni. Hella's character ran off to Spain to find herself and come to terms with whether or not she and David should get married. When David informed Giovanni about his fiance it seem like there was some envy on Giovanni's part. Giovanni's felt that David wasn't living in his truth because he was courting a woman and still messing around with men when he gets a chance to do so. So knowing that being black in America at the time when James Baldwin was writing this manuscript wasn't the most welcoming, and being a black gay writer was just that much more of a taboo subject. How does David experience in Paris push the envelope of black gay men living in an environment that allows them to live in their truth when it comes to sexuality? Is sexuality a taboo subject overseas as it is here in America? Everyone knows that race is a social construct. However, the 'one drop rule' that we go by in America plays out differently overseas as it pertains to race (i.e.: linguistically, culturally, and socio-economically). How has David's racial experience in Paris been different from that in America? Keep in mind when Baldwin wrote this manuscript interracial relationships/marriages were frowned upon and illegal here in America, at least until the SCOTUS handed down their decision in Loving v. Virginia (1967).

    What are some of your thoughts about the book and questions that I just posed?
     
    #1 scooter, Feb 20, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2016
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  2. grownman

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    Hey, been waiting for you. Glad to see you back and ready. @scooter man I am sorry but it just didn't catch my attention. I look forward to everyone's thoughts and opinions. Don't cuss me out-man. Lol.

    I am so looking forward to the next one.
     
  3. scooter

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    It's ok I know James Baldwin's work can be tough to get thru at times. Especially when it requires one to be in his frame of mind thinking in order to understand what he's writing trying to convey to his readers. However, I think the next book will be more interesting. It seems as if fiction is the strong suit when it comes to peoples interests.
     
  4. grownman

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    Yeah, it depends on the subject and the characters involved in the story. However, I will agree-fiction is not my preferred style of reading. But, I have read a couple of his other books and enjoyed them.
     
  5. grownman

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    But, I will go back and speak on what I have read.
     
  6. Coltrane

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    Hey guys,

    I meant to be on yesterday for the discussion of Giovanni's Room but I had a family matter I had to attend to.
     
  7. scooter

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    Hey life happens, just respond when ever you get time this week its not like its time sensitive.
     
  8. Jdudre

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    I am still in the middle of reading this book but so far it seems that nothing has really changed in the gay community. The main characters are scared of being gay and/or of being in love and what does that mean for them. The theme of masculinity and what is is very rampant in the book. I believe this is one of the main reason it has lasted so long it speaks to truths we as men and especially black gay men struggle with on almost daily basis and the fact that the only black character that is used, so far, is in the being of the book and afterwards we never hear from him again is kind of brilliant.
    Overall, I like it, it is a book that has hidden depths you have to read it more than once and think about it.
     
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  9. scooter

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    Hey guy that's a great analysis of Baldwin's work. One thing I think people tend to overlook is how Baldwin ascribes to concepts of masculinity and femininity. Especially when it comes to his relationship with Giovanni, he plays around with the idea of equating gender roles with his sexual identity, but then recants his idea of thinking. Especially when he referred to himself as being Giovanni's wife, but saying that a man cannot be a wife. So it makes you think about how we often equate heteronormative ideologies into SGL relationships (i.e.: who's the man or who's the woman? in a SGL relationship)
     
  10. Jdudre

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    That is the fear of the whole book it's what pushes the story forward its a very simple thing, but it has such huge implication in the life of all the charterers.
    "Gender norms" or what we believe then to be are so strong we sacrifice everything for then or to fight then when in reality none of that shit matters.
    What is a wife? Is it a female or someone who cooks, cleans and takes care of the household?
    I believe the main question the book asking us is why do we sacrifice who we are or could be just to fit into a mold that in all honest is 1) not that well defined 2) is in a constate of flux
     
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  11. grownman

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    I believe in David's eyes and the house hold he grew up in. The wife is seen as second class because he refers to his father as such. He refers to his mom or sees her as "Ellen" a woman there to simply cook and clean. His father treats her as such and that thinking and behavior is picked up. The bond that David desires with his father is not coming into fruition. I also see that having a father in the house has no negative or positive bearings on childs development. Like I and others have been programmed to believe. That's just as far I have gotten. I maybe off. Correct me if I am.
     
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  12. scooter

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    Well you're really not off by that much, David's father does treat David's mother as a second class citizen in the house. Moreover David's relationship with his father is troublesome at best. However, David's father doesn't totally abandon him in his time of need b/c he does send his son some money while he is overseas. However, I would argue that the relationship David has with his father, or lack thereof negatively impacts his relationship with other men in his life at times.
     
  13. scooter

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    You raise some important questions regarding gender norms. I think since gender is so fluid one really can't conflate gender norms to much in an SGL relationship. However, so many do when it comes to sexual roles that one plays in the bedroom. Which is kind of strange being that David bi-sexuality allows him to go back and forth so much, where as its hard to see him abide by gender norms.
     
  14. grownman

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    Now it's starting to come life. I needed to talk about it.
     
  15. grownman

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    I ordered the next book through kindle and have started reading.
     
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