Weekly Reads: Giovanni’s Room

Caprielle Eden / The Watchdog

“I scarcely know how to describe that room. It became, in a way, every room I had ever been in and every room I find myself in hereafter will remind me of Giovanni’s room.”

– James Baldwin, “Giovanni’s Room”

Two weeks ago, the Bellevue College Literature Club concluded its second round of book club meetings with James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room.” Though the novel came to a quick close with only 159 pages, the story of David and Giovanni will remain in the minds and hearts of those who read their story. 

“Giovanni’s Room” follows David, an American living in the great city of Paris, France, in the 1950s. While his fiancée, Hella, is away on vacation in Spain, David tries to survive the streets of Paris before eventually asking Jacques for monetary aid. After arriving at a bar together, they meet Giovanni, a handsome Italian bar server. From there, David and Giovanni’s paths continue to cross and they deepen their relationship. However, this intense affair faces challenges with Hella’s imminent return to the city, the men’s financial struggles and David’s insistent denial of his sexuality. His refusal to see Giovanni as a safe relationship results in tragedy, and it is this story that David narrates in the first person. 

Though the novel was first published in 1956 and was soon banned in 1977, “Giovanni’s Room” remains at the center of LGBTQ literature. Through this novel, Baldwin showcases the internal struggles of sexuality, the difficulties created by standards surrounding sexuality and race, and the pain a lack of personal freedom can create. 

To see the Google Slides the BC Literature Club created and followed, see this link