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If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
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If Beale Street Could Talk

by James Baldwin

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9322414,124 (4.09)61
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» See also 61 mentions

English (23)  Dutch (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
I’m not sure how—or why—this powerful work of narrative beauty escaped me until now, but I’m certainly grateful that Barry Jenkins’ film adaption has rekindled interest in this narrative. Despite some perplexing inconsistencies in narrative point of view, this story of unconditional love blends themes of romance, race, social class, gender, sexuality, and family in ways that only literary masters can manage. Baldwin was undeniably head of his time.

In the early 21st century, this story has become familiar enough. Tish, the young, Black first-person narrator, is pregnant with the child of her lifelong love, Fonny, who has been unjustly imprisoned for the rape of a Puerto Rican woman. As Tish and her family band together to free Fonny, institutionalized racism, economic inequality, and social oppression (not to mention members of Fonny’s own family) conspire to keep the young lovers apart.

Baldwin’s prose is by turns lyrical, minimalist, imagistic, and brutally violent. He orchestrates his diction with sublime precision; therefore, I must presume that there is some artistic justification for having Tish narrate scenes (such as Fonny’s private conversations with his friend Daniel, Fonny’s experiences in prison, and her mother’s ordeal in Puerto Rico as she attempts to track down the rape victim) that she could not have possibly witnessed. That stylistic quibble aside, I cannot recall another book this brief (fewer than 200 pages) that permeates with such intensity and insight. ( )
  jimrgill | Mar 20, 2019 |
Fine balance of Love, Humor, and Hate as racism takes its horrible toll.

The only major question mark is Frank's suicide ending the book: he simply would not have done this to his jailed son,
knowing that the news could kill or destroy him. ( )
  m.belljackson | Mar 4, 2019 |
This is the first time I've read a book by James Baldwin, but I don't think it will be my last. I had heard that they were going to make a movie out of this book this year, so I thought I should read it. Mr. Baldwin was quite the author! I don't think I've read anyone who is so sincere and straight-forward in his writing. The book was published in 1973, and it is very much a snapshot of that time in New York City. The story is told through Tish, a nineteen-year-old black girl whose boyfriend has been caught up in a very bad crime that he had nothing to do with, but because he had made an enemy of some police officers they were lying in wait to get him for something. The story is so sad and poignant, but with a very real undercurrent of hope and faith and trust and love, that bolsters up these two young people as they try to extricate Fonny from the web that he's been caught in. Tish, with the help of her formidable family, is doing everything she can to get Fonny out of jail and throughout it all we learn just how in love these two are. I can't wait to see this movie. I'm sure the score will also be something to hear. I felt like I could hear BB King singing in the background throughout the whole story. This book is built on the blues. Passion, sadness, hope and faith ripple through the pages of this book. Mr. Baldwin was a very formidable talent and a wordsmith that set the standard for those who have followed him. ( )
  Romonko | Mar 2, 2019 |
Tish and Fonny are young, in love, and expecting a baby. They’d like to get married, but Fonny was recently sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. Tish visits him twice a day to keep his spirits up, while their families try everything in their power to free Fonny. The narrative frequently shifts to the past to show Tish and Fonny growing from childhood friends into a couple, and then becoming embroiled in a series of events that led to Fonny’s arrest. Tish’s family rallies around the young couple and are the force behind the multi-faceted plan to free him. Fonny’s family has more difficulty coming to grips with and providing support for the situation.

I loved James Baldwin’s writing, which was scathing in its indictment of the societal forces acting on Tish and Fonny, and at the same time, gentle and loving in its depiction of their relationship. Baldwin is also unconventional in his storytelling, ending this novel in a way that is far from cut and dry. I highly recommend this novel. ( )
  lauralkeet | Mar 1, 2019 |
I have liked all the James Baldwin novels I've read, and this was no exception: his writing is joy to read. I've been meaning to re-read Another Country for a while now, but not got round to it, and finishing this one has definitely raised it higher in the TBR pile. The reason I picked up this one now is wanting to see the film version and I rather do it after reading the book first.

This is the story of Tish and her relationship with Fonny and how things go very wrong when he is accused of rape that he didn't commit—against the bleakness and hopelessness of fighting the accusations the depiction of their relationship is lovely, as is the way Tish's family and Fonny's father pull together to get his case dismissed. ( )
  queen_ypolita | Feb 1, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
Mary, Mary

What you going to name

That pretty little baby?
Dedication
for

YORAN
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I look at myself in the mirror.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Like the blues--sweet, sad, and full of truth--this masterful work of fiction rocks us with powerful emotions. In it are anger and pain, but above all, love--the affirmative love of a woman for her man, the sustaining love of the black family. Fonny, a talented young artist, finds himself unjustly arrested and locked in New York's infamous Tombs. But his girlfriend, Tish, is determined to free him, and to have his baby, in this starkly realistic tale... a powerful indictment of American concepts of justice and punishment in our time.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307275930, Paperback)

In this honest and stunning novel, James Baldwin has given America a moving story of love in the face of injustice. Told through the eyes of Tish, a nineteen-year-old girl, in love with Fonny, a young sculptor who is the father of her child, Baldwin’s story mixes the sweet and the sad. Tish and Fonny have pledged to get married, but Fonny is falsely accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned. Their families set out to clear his name, and as they face an uncertain future, the young lovers experience a kaleidoscope of emotions–affection, despair, and hope. In a love story that evokes the blues, where passion and sadness are inevitably intertwined, Baldwin has created two characters so alive and profoundly realized that they are unforgettably ingrained in the American psyche.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:45 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

This novel is a moving story of love in the face of injustice. Told through the eyes of Tish, a nineteen-year-old girl, in love with Fonny, a young sculptor who is the father of her child, the story mixes the sweet and the sad. Tish and Fonny have pledged to get married, but Fonny is falsely accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned. Their families set out to clear his name, and as they face an uncertain future, the young lovers experience a kaleidoscope of emotions: affection, despair, and hope. In a love story that evokes the blues, where passion and sadness are inevitably intertwined, the author has created two characters so alive and profoundly realized that they are unforgettably ingrained in the American psyche.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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