Giovanni’s Room

by

Author: James Baldwin

Title: Giovanni’s Room

Genre: GLBTQ / Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1956

Number of Pages: 169

Geographical Setting: Paris

Time Period: 1950s

Plot Summary: With his fiancée Hella away in Spain, David—a twenty-something American living abroad in Paris—moves in with an Italian man named Giovanni and begins a romantic affair with him. David is conflicted about his burgeoning homosexual identity and this conflict grows more intense when Hella returns to Paris. David loves Giovanni, but his conditioning as an American male of the mid-twentieth century precludes him from committing to the relationship and to the truth of his homosexuality. David narrates the story from some time in the future, in a house in the south of France, at which point Hella has returned to America and Giovanni has been sentenced to death for some crime which is revealed near the end of the book. The story thus recounts how David ends up alone, with neither a gay nor a straight companion.

Subject Headings: Homosexuality; Gay fiction; Love triangles; American expatriates—Paris

Appeal: bleak, character-centered, compelling, concise, emotional, first-person narrative, heartbreaking, introspective, melodramatic, psychological, reflective, somber, tragic

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character-centered, introspective, heartbreaking

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present by Neil Miller [Comprehensive guide to the history of homosexuality, including information about the time and place of Giovanni’s Room]

Gay Fictions: Studies in a Male Homosexual Literary Tradition by Claude J. Summers [Lit-crit text featuring essays about male homosexual fiction, including one about Giovanni’s Room]

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway [About life as an American expatriate in Paris]

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Married Man by Edmund White [Love story about gay men set in Paris; tragic, bleak, heartbreaking; protagonist is an American expatriate]

Maurice by E.M. Forster [Ahead-of-its-time depiction of gay romance; examination of inner conflict produced by having homosexual feelings in a time when being gay was socially unacceptable; European setting]

The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal [First American novel to openly discuss homosexuality; more inner conflict about gay identity; tragic love story]

Name: Brian W.

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