If Beale Street Could Talk

Baldwin, James. If Beale Street Could Talk. New York: Laurel Book, 1974.

Reason read: Baldwin’s birth month is in August.

Part One: Troubled About My Soul
Nineteen year old Clementine breaks the news to her incarcerated twenty-two year old boyfriend she is pregnant. Then she has to tell Lonny’s family and her own. What follows is a typical commentary on out-of-wedlock teenage pregnancy when one parent is in jail. Of course the families do not agree on anything.
This is a stark portrayal of what it means to be black and poor in New York City. What we discover about Lonny is that he has been accused of rape by a woman who picks him out of a lineup. It’s an open and shut case thanks to a cop who has it in for the oft-in-trouble teen. Clementine’s mother is the most heroic, amazing character in the whole book.
Part Two: Zion
Questions. Will Fonny and Clementine’s families raise enough money for bail? Will Fonny survive prison? What are his chances of receiving a fair trial in such an unfair society? What is to come of his unborn child?

Quotes that caught me, “Trouble means you’re alone” (p 9) and “I am imprisoned somewhere in the silence of that wood, and so is he” (p 191).

Book trivia: You could read this in a day, but it’s too painful to do so.

Author fact: I am reading seven different books by Baldwin. I have finished three so far.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: He Say” (p 10).



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