Coming-of-Age Canon: James Ijames

Formative stories from the YOUTH group

Have you ever read a story that stuck with you a little longer than the others? Sometimes a movie or a book or a song from your childhood helped you when you had growing pains. Bildungsroman refers to a piece of art that helped form the person you are today.

We asked the cast and crew of YOUTH to talk about their own favorite and formative art. Our first features respondent is the Playwright and Professor himself, James Ijames!

Formative Inspiration

Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin

What about it struck you?

James Baldwin is one of my all time favorite writers and this book was the first one I read. It was an old beat up copy that I bought at a Goodwill and it couldn’t put it down. It seemed so close to my own feelings about the world and it showed me how close we all are to each other when you get down to it. James Baldwin was writing about a young boy in Harlem in the 40’s and I was a young boy in the south in the 90’s feeling everything John Grimes was feeling.

How has it informed your development as a person/artist/scholar/etc?

It’s affected me most as a writer. Baldwin showed me in that book that writing about blackness can be both delicate and triumphant. But it also taught me that my own story could be the foundation on which I build everything I write.

Have you incorporated any of its lessons into your life that you use, even now?

The things that challenge us and sometimes want to beat us down can be transformed into the very vehicles that will elevate us to our destiny.

Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not?

Yes! Glorious story and writing and James Baldwin is more important now than he has ever been.