If Beale Street Could Talk – 7 Days of Books

“I hope that nobody has ever had to look at anybody they love through glass.”

For day two I wanted to share my favourite book that I have read thus far this year, as well as a new favourite author. Though I had read from James Baldwin before, the seminal If Beale Street Could Talk solidified my love of his prose.

The novel is essentially a love story focused on Tish and Fonny, a young, unmarried black couple who are about to have a baby. Told from Tish’s perspective, the story follows her and her family’s attempt to prove Fonny’s innocence after he is wrongly accused of rape and imprisoned.

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For anyone familiar with Baldwin, it will come as no surprise that the novel deals with race and the discrimination black people faced in the early 1970s (arguably today as well). For anyone unacquainted with Baldwin, I would highly recommend the documentary/visual essay I Am Not Your Negro, which has little to do with Beale St other than overlapping themes and ideas, but through the film you can see how accurately and eloquently Baldwin is able to discuss these issues, as well as highlighting what an incredible man he was.

But this book is more than a condemnation on anti-blackness. It is more than it’s bleak premise indicates. It is full of life, each character so beautifully believable, so determined and strong and vulnerable. It is full of hope, hope in community, hope in family, hope in love. At times the language is brutal, but ultimately it is an optimistic novel, in spite of it all.

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