Book Rant: If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin (Review)

Fatuma Hydara Black Writers Literary Fiction Review

Book Review of If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin In If Beale Street Could Talk by James BaldwinTish and Fonny are childhood friends turned lovers. Tish is 19 and Fonny, 21. The story begins with Fonny in jail for a crime he didn't commit (according to Tish, who is the story's narrative) and her family is fighting hard to get him out.
  • As we read about their effort, Tish occasionally retells special moments between her and Fonny to give us a glimpse into their relationship.
  • I found their relationship pretty cute and it was enjoyable enough to see how they grew.
  • The novel also explores family dynamics, juxtaposing Tish's super supportive one with Fonny's dysfunctional family. Lastly, there are hints at police abuse of power. We don't see it on the pages but we assume Fonny is in jail because of a negative encounter with a jerk of a cop. 

Baldwin's writing is beautiful. Poetic and rhythmic. But after about halfway through, it became too much. Became a distraction. Felt myself pausing to reread, like "wait, what's actually happening?" I also found the ending unsatisfying. It was filled with flowery language but no clear conclusion for Fonny and Tish. We're left in limbo. And I don't hate an ambiguous ending if it makes sense. But why end without letting us know if Fonny makes it out of jail or not?? 😫

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin gets ⭐⭐⭐/5 for me. Wouldn't necessarily recommend but not cancelling Baldwin altogether. 


Notable Quotes:

"I guess it can be too often that two people can laugh and make love, too, make love because they are laughing, laugh because they're making love. The love and the laughter come from the same place: but not many people go there."

"That same passion which saved Fonny got him into trouble, and put him in jail. For, you see, he . . . wasn't anybody's nigger. And that's a crime, in this fucking free country. You're suppose to be somebody's nigger. And if you're nobody's nigger, you're a bad nigger: and that's what the cops decided when Fonny moved downtown."

"...people love different people in different ways."



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