Monday May 08, 2017

The Canadian book to read if you like James Baldwin

Motion talks about the similarities between James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain and Jael Ealey Richardson's The Stone Thrower.

Motion talks about the similarities between James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain and Jael Ealey Richardson's The Stone Thrower. (Zahra Siddiqui)

Listen 11:07

The 2016 documentary I Am Not Your Negro brought renewed attention to James Baldwin and his explorations of race, class and culture in the United States. Hip hop artist Motion thinks if you read James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain, you should check out the Canadian book The Stone Thrower: A Daughter's Lessons, A Father's Life by Jael Ealey Richardson. 

The layers of Go Tell It on the Mountain

What I love about this work, particularly, is that we go so deeply into their personal selves. We see how race and racism has affected them, we see how they are trying to break out of the chains of segregation. He even travels us to when the great-grandmother of John Grimes leaves the plantation to find a new life on the day when the emancipation proclamation is signed. We see not only these historical things going on, but also how deeply personal the struggles and the fight and the redemption of each character is taking place within them.

Identity, history and culture in The Stone Thrower

It's interesting how [Jael Ealey Richardson] mixes different forms. You have some memoir, with articles from the sports world. She also looks at her father's life in the context of historical events. The civil rights movement to the day of the assassination of Martin Luther King, the fight to desegregate schools, the Vietnam War, Kent State, the Nixon years — all of these historical eras are talked about and shown within the context of her father growing up as a young black man in the United States. Then she takes this knowledge and starts to look at her life and how she identifies growing up in a multicultural society as a black girl who may not have the same roots as some of her friends coming from the Caribbean or who have African lineage. She wonders: Is she black enough? What is her blackness? How does she assert it? How can she speak about it in a place that is not legally segregated but ultimately culturally segregated?

Motion's comments have been edited and condensed.