A Struggle to Remain Whole and Composed: Poignant, Raw & Simply Beautiful
“If Beale Street Could Talk” is one of those books that I will never and can never forget. If you are familiar with James Baldwin and his work, then you recognize his stark ability to make you feel yet dully engage in the encompassing issue at hand. It is an evocative love story set Harlem in the 1970s that follows the dramatic lives of a young African American couple whose overall dynamic is tested by one act of prejudice and carelessness. Tish, the main character and young expectant mother of her soon to be husband Fonny, is caught in confusion and strife as Fonny is wrongfully set up by a white police officer and accused as a rapist and sent to jail. What I love most about this novel is Tish’s vocal and emotional clarity. Baldwin makes her character speak in a way that is reminiscent of the struggle, pain, concern, and love that a black woman endures while trying to maintain peace and remain whole in a society that would carelessly neglect the black man’s well being and place in her life.
The language is rich, the events that play out is heart wrenching yet it is such an honest and genuine display of resilience in the face of a web of trials. While I cannot say that I absolutely love romance novels but I adore this one. The love that Tish and Fonny have for each other serves as a shield of protection from the psychological damages that could occur from their environment and the upcoming trial for Fonny. Throughout the novel, I kept asking: what is the breaking point? How much can a young expectant mother endure? How much can the young black father endure?
This novel left me in tears and with pure admiration.
The video clip below is from the 1989 American Masters documentary, “James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket”. Here, Maya Angelou reads an excerpt from his novel, “If Beale Street Could Talk”.