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If He Hollers Let Him Go (Serpent's Tail Classics) Paperback – 2 Dec 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (2 Dec 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1846687381
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846687389
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 359,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

A classic of Afro-American fiction, Chester Himes' first novelIf He Hollers Let Him Go, offers powerful testimony and witness to the poisonous rage and anxieties, the frustration and despair at stunted possibilities of a black "leaderman", Bob Jones. Set in a Cleveland shipyard during the Second World War, the novel reflects the pervasive violence and devastingly perverse paradigms of American racism through the traumatic experiences of Jones who, from the moment he wakes up and drives to work until the moment he returns home and goes to sleep, is literally overwhelmed by the raw, brutal circumstances of Jim Crowism. Finding himself trapped by the unremittingly stark stereotypes of race and his own psychic internalisation of the contradictions, paradoxes and inequities of race, Jones's anguished isolation is communicated through both his strained relations with Alice--his black bourgeois girlfriend--and his illicit, perverse desire for Madge, a Southern white working class woman whose sexual demands result in him being falsely charged with rape. The latter forms the climax to the novel and shows, among other things, how palpably intermingled sex and racism have been (and are) in American society. Jones's pain, awkwardness and discomfort, revealing the price of that intermingling, here dramatised as an emasculated and petrified version of black "manhood". --David Marriott --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Youthful, insulting, risky, brash, bad-assed, revolutionary, violent, and struts about as if to say, here come cocky Chester Himes, you litterateurs, and I hope you don't like it (Ishmael Reed)

The greatest, most brutally powerful novel of the best black novelist of his generation (Chicago Tribune)

Hard and fast and sure (New York Review of Books)

Relentless, gripping, classic novel, one of the most powerful exposés of what it is like to be black in America (LA Times)

One of the most important American writers of the twentieth century ... [a] quirky American genius (Walter Mosley)

Himes never soft-pedaled his disdain for the systemic racism of the day or for black integrationists, whom he referred to as "whining beggars" ... One hundred years after his birth, for better and for worse, the great Chester Himes remains nearly one of a kind (John Ridley, Emmy Award winning writer and commentator Huffington Post)

With his first novel, Chester Himes secured his place in the vanguard of the emerging young black writers of his time who were honestly detailing the rigors of black life in America ... If He Hollers Let Him Go is a masterpiece for its bitter and honest portrayal of the life of a normal black man in America (Barnes & Noble)

[Himes] taught me the difference between a black detective and Sherlock Holmes (Ishmael Reed)

America's central American black writer (James Sallis)

Brutal (The Times 2010-11-13)

Chester Himes is the great lost crime writer, as well a great American dissident novelist per se, and an essential witness to his times. Every one of his beyond-cool Harlem novels is cherished by every reader who finds it (Jonathan Lethem)

One of the most dazzlingly pissed-off books we have ever read... an enraged existentialist romp across LA... a wildly compelling window into the tormented black soul of America in the mid-20th century. You didn't realise it, but it turns out you really need to read it. (Stuart Hammond Dazed and Confused 2011-01-01)

A compulsive read. It has the quality of a Greek tragedy in which the terrible fate of the hero is a foregone conclusion. (John Green Morning Star 2011-12-29)

A striking debut (Geoff St Louis Time Out 2011-01-13)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER on 28 Nov 2010
Format: Paperback
If He Hollers Let Him Go, first published in 1945, is written from the perspective of Robert Jones, an African-American working in the defence shipyards in California. The book is full of anger about racial inequalities and Himes pulls no punches in his depiction of the life of a young black man in a white world. It must have been shocking at the time of publication, but how does it stand up in today's more racially integrated world?

This is the latest in the Serpent's Tail Classics series. Each book is given a brief new, modern introduction, in this case by Jake Arnott and this is particularly helpful in placing the book into context. This adds much to the reading of the book.

Arnott explains that the author Himes had certain elements in common with his main character. Both escaped from Cleveland attracted by the apparently more racially integrated offerings of California. In Himes' case, this initially went well as he gained a writing job with Warner Brothers only to be crassly dismissed by Jack Warner on purely racial grounds. He went to work in the shipyards where recent events in Pearl Harbour meant that employers couldn't be too fussy about the colour of your skin due to the volumes of work. It's not surprising that Himes would be angry with this outcome. And if there's one thing that his main character, Robert Jones, is it would be angry.

It's easy to forget how very different life was for African Americans just a few decades ago, even outside of the South. And there's no doubt that much of Jones' anger is due to the circumstances in which he finds himself, but while we might want to have an intrinsic sympathy with his plight, he doesn't always make it easy for the reader to take his side.

In fact, Jones has it relatively good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JazzFeathers on 21 May 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the account of four life-changing days in the life of Robert Jones, a black leaderman of a black crew in a Californian shipyard during WWII. Bob is a fiery man who knows his own worth and tries to assert it in the white world he lives in, even with all the restrictions he knows he have to take into account. But there are things he's not willing to take, and he won't take. And when one of these happens and he is suspended from work because he stood his ground, his entire life is shaken to the roots.
Here starts a wild journey into Bob's soul, while he interrogates himself about what being a black man means in a white, segregated world, and what future there could ever be - what future of fulfilment there could ever be - for a man in his position.

The story is told in the first person by Bob and it's mindblowing. Himes takes you into Bob's heart of hearts and let you into his deepest, more secret thoughts and feelings. Into his most secrets fears, his most unspeakable of hopes, into his deepest frustrations. There had been moments I had to remind myself: "You are not Bob Jones", so deep the identification was. I really thought with him, felt with him, got angry with him, grabbed and lost hopes with him. It's like walking all the way right beside him.

Himes is a master of dialogue. I've always liked his strong grip on people's way of speaking of themselves in the sheer way they speak of anything. Sometimes it's more like listening to his characters than read them.
I've rarely read such an involving story. I enjoyed it a lot.
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By Andrew Banks on 13 Feb 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Enjoyed this story and was challenged to think about race issues. An interesting plot keeps the reader's attention but more importantly we are given an insight into the minds of an oppressed race.
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By Chris on 6 Feb 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic book. A true classic page turner you cannot go wrong purchasing this book.A very powerful and true description of life as the 'other'. Moving and brutal.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Selina on 29 July 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a good read although I did find it slightly predicatable I also found myself quite angry in places about the decisons made by the main characther. I enjoyed the book alot and it gave a blantant expression of thoughts and feelings from the main characther overall a good read.
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