If Beale Street could Talk

By James Baldwin

This was my first James Baldwin read and I definitely plan on reading many more. If I didn’t already know of Baldwin, I would have been surprised to find that this was written by a man. He did such a good job telling the story from the woman’s perspective.

“If any place is worse, it’s got to be so close to hell that you can smell the people frying. And, come to think of it, that’s exactly the smell of New York in the summertime”

I absolutely love the way he infuses humour in his writing. I also love the way he writes about love…

“…and when you come home most likely I’ll just grunt and keep on with my chisels and shit and maybe sometimes you’ll think I don’t even know you’re there. But don’t ever think that, ever. You’re with me all the time, all the time…and when I put down the chisel, I’ll always come to you. I’ll always come to you. I need you. I love you.”

This is the kind of love I aspire to – the real kind. The kind that persists long after the honeymoon phase. Fonny and Tish’s confessions of love aren’t about tulips and roses but the recognition that no matter where you are or what is or isn’t going on; you are loved.

“He wasn’t anybody’s nigger. And that’s a crime, in this fucking free country. You’re supposed 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”

This probably isn’t news to you. We’re reminded of it every time a black man is stopped because his fancy car must be “stolen”. Or the store clerk follows you around the store because the only way you could possibly get anything in this luxurious store is if you stole it. Like many stories that celebrate black love in America, the stain and influence of racism is inescapable; this one is no different.

“Maybe there’s something I had to see, and — I couldn’t have seen it without coming in here”

At the end of the book, Fonny is wrongfully imprisoned and he states his outlook in the quote above. I have my own thoughts on this but I’d like to know what you think. Do you believe that everything happens for a reason? Is there really a point to all suffering (even when unjust)?

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Yoruba-Torontonian. Lover of music and most things tech. Avid reader, cook and writer

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