Giovani’s Room by James Baldwin follows the main character David as he is alone in Paris after his then girlfriend, Hella, has fled to another country after David proposed to her. After she leaves David begins to become involved with a man named Giovanni. Much of the book is spent leading up to a big day.
Baldwin did such a wonderful job writing this novel, he allowed himself to take control of how queer characters were represented at the time of publication. There is nothing fun about this book, it is honest and it will take your breath away and leave you in pieces. David is the typical American guy in Paris trying to discover himself, while his wife is away he decides to hang out with an old friend Jacques in order to ask for money, – did I mention this book was set in Paris, after James Baldwin had fled America to stay in France with Nina Simone, anyways, this novel infuses hints of French in the text – They end up in a gay bar where they meet Giovanni and so starts their relation.
“People can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life.”
David and Giovanni’s relationship is stressed to be one of actual love, they both play an active role in each other’s well-being. More so Giovanni to David, what starts off as a little fun turns into something more. Giovanni serves as a catharsis for David. A chance for David to be honest with himself. However, there is a struggle. The title of the book speaks to book in its entirety. Giovanni’s room, this dark claustrophobic room that David is trying to escape. This escape is not from harm, more so from the truth. Upon Hellas arrival David fled from Giovanni. David is now torn in this “love triangle” Stay with the woman he’s proposed to or someone he just met. James Baldwin holds no punches in this novel, from the homophobia Hella expresses when she meets Jacques and is put off by his mannerisms or the internalized homophobia expressed by David when he returns to find Giovanni has changed.
There are many themes that Baldwin explores in this novel, ones that don’t even directly involve sexuality. His writing truly embodies the Parisian experience from an outsider’s perspective. It can be argued that David’s experience could in part be Baldwin’s experiences while he was an American expatriate in Paris or James Baldwin could be living vicariously through the privilege of a fictional white character (David). While it is never expressed directly in the novel sexuality obviously plays a big factor here. While many people argue that David (and Giovanni) are gay men, I think rather that David might be bisexual as he never expresses he doesn’t love or isn’t attracted to Hella anymore just that he now has eyes for someone else. Baldwin also explores the topic of “Passing” in this novel, be it David’s attempts to pass as Paris native or passing as straight when the character might not be other-wise.
Baldwin does a wonderful job at writing this novel you really begin to feel like you’re reading this love novel and that there is going to be this happy ever after ending with a walk on the beach during sunset and everyone is going to be happy, but no, you finish this book in tears – remember I said James Baldwin holds no punches—the novel takes a surprising turn. He gives you just enough of the past, present and future to where you’re unable to put this down. I give this book 5 stars out of 5.
The month of June is Pride month for a lot of us, and for the book community this gives readers a chance to find books by LGBTQ+ Authors or that involve members of this community. I’ve seen a lot of #ReadProud challenge post floating around, and while this is not a challenge I hope you find books from this list as well, and get around to reading them. My fear however, is that I don’t want this to be a fab, cishet people reading queer Lit because its Pride Month, this should be almost an everyday thing. This #Readproud is divided into four categories. YA, Adult, Memoirs essays and Short stories, and a bonus section with a few movies.
- Grasshopper Jungle x Andrew Smith
- Bisexuality, Love triangle, Aliens bugs, Dystopian, Historical
- None Of The Above x I. W. Gregorio
- Intersex, Identity, secrets, love, acceptance
- Simon vs Homo Sapiens Agenda
- Gay, Identity, Oreos, Relationship, acceptance
- More Happy Than Not x Adam Silvera
- Gay, Identity, Loss, Acceptance, Bullying, Western Influence, Family Issues, Memory.
- Not Otherwise Specified x Hannah Moskowitz
- Lesbian, Acceptance, Identity, stereotypes, religion.
- South of Sunshine x Dana Eldendorf
- Lesbian, coming out, small town, religion, bigotry, struggle with faith, diverse LGBT characters. Racism.
- Parrotfish x Ellen Wittlinger
- Trans FtM, transition, serendipity, acceptance, bigotry.
- Luna x Julie Anne Peters
- Trans MtF, Gender Idetity, acceptance, Trigger Warned, support, forced therapy,
- Hero x Perry Moore
- Gay, Superhero, acceptance, dystopian.
- Chulito x Charles Rice-Gonzalez
- coming out love story, queer youth culture, latino, bullying.
- Rubyfruit Jungle x Rita Mae Brown
- Lesbian, Gender roles, period piece, acceptance, sexuality
- Faggots x Larry Kramer
- Gay men, relationships. coming of age.
- Giovanni’s room x James Baldwin
- coming out, coming of age, Travel, Paris, American, gender norms, societal norms, love,
- Plan B x SJD Peterson
- Androgynous, gender non-conforming, football player troupe, acceptance, problematic element, cliché love story.
- The Children of Gavrilek x Julie Kirion Chandler
- LGBT characters, magical realism, diversity, Cuban, Love, Acceptance.
- Fun Home x Alison Bechdel
- Love, Coming out, parental issues, trust, confusion.
- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Shope Café x Fannie Flagg
- Lesbian, Tomboy, love, murder, mystery.
- Confessions of a Mask x Yukio Mishima
- Code-switching, Erotic fantasy moments, religion, coming of age, acceptance,
- Down to the Bone x Mayra Lazara
- Cuban American, Lesbian, homeless, shelter, acceptance, love.
- In The Blood x Lisa Unger
- Trans, Mystery, lies, not centered around transition, college, love.
- Carry me like water x Benjamin Alire Saenz
- Intersectionality, HIV / AIDS, Magical realism, secrets, lies.
LGBTQ+ Memoirs, collection of short stories, Essays
- Redefining Realness x Janet Mock
- Trans, Own Voice, Memoir
- Fire shut up in my bones: A memoir x Charles M. Blow
- Childhood abuse, Acceptance, Own Voice
- A Cup of Water Under my Bed x Daisy Hernandez
- Cuban-Columbian, race relations, love, Lesbian, Bisexuality, Transmen. Own Voice. Memoir
- Teaching the cat to sit x Michelle Theall
- religion, lesbian, catholic, love, memoir, own voice.
- Manning up: Transsexual Men on finding brotherbood, family and themselves
- Own voices, intersectionality, personal narratives.
- Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens speak out
- Transgender + gender neutral Young Adults, interviews, own voices.
- Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme
- short stories, Queer Authors, gender sterotypes,
- Labor of Love: The Story of One Man’s Extraordinary Pregnancy
- Transparents, parenthood, acceptance, sterotypes, gender norms, societal expectations.
- Quarantine x Rahul Mehta
- Indian-American gay men, family issues, western privilege + lifestyle, own voices.
Extra: Movies ( Just in case you need to put a book down for a moment or two)
- Paris is Burning
- On Netflix, Queer men of color culture, vogue + Ballroom history, Origins of “shade” and “Tea”, highly recommended.
- How to survive a Plague
- Early HIV/ AIDS activism, on Netflix, informational.
- Biopic Harvey Milk, politics, Murder, LGBT history
- Boys Don’t Cry
- Transman, Hate crime, Love, Bullying
- The Laramie Project
- Bullying, documentary, Matthew Shepard.
- But I’m a Cheerleader
- My Own Private Idaho
- The Danisha Lady
- The Rocky Horror Picture
Let me start by saying this book is dense, Salman Rushdie took his time writing this book. We follow the story of the protagonist Saleem, who as the book progresses is falling apart more and more. (Literally) This book is far from a fast pace book. If ever an award for a book that beats around the bush and alludes to things were given out, Midnight’s Children would win the award every time. There is a lot to take in. One of the biggest themes is fragmentation: Both of his body and the land. The book takes place during the territory conflict in India. Our protagonist is has abilities along with other people who share something in common with him. Throughout the novel Saleem is constantly reminded of the conflict, both internal and external, he has to deal with. This book does NOT lack in culture, from the character names to locations, Rushdie does a wonderful job importing the reader to India and Pakistan. Though this book does drag at times, Rushdie inserts a character to make fun of you for being bored and impatient. When you’ve heard those particular details three times already he tells them to you a fourth.
This book beats the reader over the head with its flamboyant mysticism–maddeningly repetitive, sickeningly self-conscious, pompous and insistent. It’s a smack-you-upside-the-head and shout-in-your-ear allegory.