"My Dungeon Shook" was reviewed back in February of 2019 when I stumbled upon the essay during my preparation for the Baldwin piece "Nobody Knows My Name," production. Here's a link to it if you'd like to see how it turned out. In short, My Dungeon Shook was dope!
The rest of this review will focus on Down At The Cross. Strap in!
"Down At The Cross" felt like the story of my own religious journey (so much so I was inspired to write an essay on my religious journey.) Baldwin is famously known for being a child preacher, something he admits may have been a matter of attention-seeking, and staying out of trouble. Most surprisingly, however, he loved the power it gave him over his own father, who was also a pastor. The young preacher did not attend his father's church. In fact, he was in competition with him.
Baldwin brilliantly speaks on the role the church played in his Harlem community. Looking back at his experience, he realized that his options were very limited. That church was a reprieve from the ghetto, all things considered. The chapel shielded him from drug addiction and the fangs of prostitution. But going to church wouldn't be enough. Baldwin had to do it big.
Becoming a preacher, outside of his own father's church on top of that, was a kind of young rebellious decision meant to shelter him from the ghetto and to some degree, to piss his father off. It was a juvenile approach that I believe helped Baldwin find his voice.
The essay abounds with theories and ideas about Baldwin himself and about people and religion. He shares his experience meeting with Elijah Mohammed, and rather bluntly it seems. Though he recognized and appreciated his position, Baldwin seemed to openly disagree with many of his beliefs. I simply admire the strength of his conviction as it portrayed through this essay.
"The Fire Next Time" is an eye-opening book. For me, it was enlightening in a personal. If you would like to read it, click here to order through Amazon today.
Next Review: Before The Law by Franz Kafka