James Baldwin is a literary legend who needs next to no introduction. Except that I feel like no one reads any Baldwin anymore. Is this true? Have y’all read anything by him recently? If Beale Street Could Talk is my very first and will not be my last. Now that I’ve read one, I intend to read his entire backlist. And I need y’all to do the same thing.
Tish loves Fonny and Fonny loves Tish. They are a young, sweet couple living in NYC just trying to create a home and a family of their own. But when Fonny is wrongfully accused of raping a Puerto Rican woman, he’s thrown in jail, separated from his now pregnant fiance.
And it’s heartbreaking. Heartbreaking because how much this fictional story embodies the harsh realities of life and racism and shitty people. The irony of the police force and the law system being the very evil they’re supposed to serve and protect us from. Baldwin’s writing is no nonsense and doesn’t allow you to make excuses for the fact in his fiction. He demands his readers see through the bullshit. But he does so by making you fall in love with these wonderfully drawn, full-bodied characters who will crawl inside your heart and stay there even when you put the book down. It’s a story of the human spirit pitted against the ugliness of humanity.
The novel is short, yet powerful. The ambiguous ending was expertly done. Baldwin’s talent with the written word had me underlining and highlighting and sharing quotes on Tumblr with every turn of the page. It’s a book that still feels so very relevant even decades later. Because we’re still trapped inside this horrific bubble of prejudice and racism and making people feel other despite knowing better by now. So perhaps we need James Baldwin now more than we ever have.
So, what’s your favorite Baldwin novel? Where should I head next?