Friday, January 18, 2019

Book Review - "If Beale Street Could Talk" by James Baldwin

This was a riveting read. Baldwin’s honest and emotion-laden writing grabs you from the start. He tells you a simple story of gross injustices inflicted on people of color in New York City in the 60s and 70s. Weaving into this narrative family love, passionate love between two young people, hope and despair, dogmatic prejudices and forgiveness, he transports you to a world that makes you throw your hands up in disbelief at the injustices and at the same time marvel at humanity.

Fonny and Tish from their respective black families fall in love and are about to get married. Fonny loves the art of sculpting, but for this passion he has to tolerate his mother’s and sisters’ scorn. Just as Tish discovers that she’s with child, Fonny is thrown into prison on a false charge of rape, because a white policeman is set on ruining him out of spite. Tish’s parents and elder sister rally to help Fonny get exonerated. Meanwhile, Tish and Fonny are sustained by their love for each other and the baby in Tish’s womb.

The beauty of the novel lies in the true-to-life characters that jump off the page. Each character is drawn vividly with his/her flaws and strengths and beliefs and idiosyncracies. Their dialogues and interaction makes it easy to believe they were the folks who walked the streets of New York in that time period.

I’m giving this novel 4.3 stars.  

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