James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room participates in a cross-racial call and response with Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, illuminating both shared cultural influences and differences of race and sexuality. David’s struggle between the social force of compulsory heterosexuality and the personal force of individual desire plays out on a broader structural level as Baldwin’s gay plot is drawn toward the magnetically forceful heterosexual love triangle in Hemingway’s tale. Hemingway and Baldwin address gender normativity and sexual inadequacy from a particular American perspective that must grapple with an unattainable vision of the normal and with the crippling American myth of self-determination.

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