60 Books In 2019 # 6: If Beale Street Could Talk By James Baldwin

I wish I’d read more Baldwin in school. I always liked what I did read, and If Beale Street Could Talk is not an exception there, but I was craving a classroom roundtable and some discussion questions to guide me as I worked my way through it this week.

But alas, my dear readers, I have neither, I just have you, so let’s talk about If Beale Street Could Talk, Baldwin’s bittersweet story of young lovers divided by circumstance and injustice. Tish and Fonny have loved one another as long as they can remember, not long after they agree to get married, Fonny is arrested for a rape he didn’t commit and Tish realizes that she’s pregnant.

What follows is two families trying desperately to break a chain that goes back generations and believing, in the face of failure after failure that they will succeed.

The book is beautiful. It’s straightforward and stunning and lovely, and heartbreaking all at once. Told entirely from Tish’s perspective it moves through time and memory as she does, jumping back and forth between her days trying to free Fonny, and their times together leading up to his arrest, ending with the birth of the child, after learning that he may never be getting out.

Baldwin’s work is really layered, telling stories about family and the black community and (often) the queer black community (though that isn’t the case this time.) I’m excited to deep dive on him over the coming this year. Also, to go see Barry Jenkins’s film version of Beale Street this weekend. (Also probably The Favourite! It’s art movie time!)

Up next is Memnoch The Devil by Anne Rice, because I have missed Lestat. Have you guys missed Lestat? I bet you have! (The first sentence of this book is, “I am the Vampire Lestat, but you know that.” I love him so much.)

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