Story From The Streets. James Baldwin's If Beale Street Could Talk.
A deliberate story of black love and life. Baldwin presents a picture of black love, which might not have been a popular rhetoric in his time. Tish and Fonny did not have the smoothest meeting, but it sure was interesting, involving a cut face and a missing tooth. The deliberateness with which this story was written, conveys the goal of the author in presenting Tish and Fonny's love and the dreams they had for their life together. We learn of the growth of their relationship through Tish's recollections and also get a glimpse of the fraught bond Fonny has with his mother and sisters adds another layer to the story.
Baldwin certainly has a way of weaving words together that allows the reader to paint a vivid picture of the experiences of the characters as one moves through the tale.
When Fonny is arrested, the reader experiences his incarceration with him and the journey that Tish and her family embark on to prove his innocence. Tish finds out that she is pregnant, which adds another element of urgency to free Fonny. The absolute support that Tish gets from her mother, father and sister shows the depth of the bond that Fonny has formed with them as a family unit.
Through Tish's recollection, we see the series of events that might have led to Fonny's arrest, her attempt to get the attention of a policeman to report an assault on her person, Fonny beating the perpetrator and the policeman being berated by the grocery owner when he attempts to lay charges on Fonny. The bruised ego of a white policeman being denied his brand of justice leads to him orchestrating a course of events that would lead to Fonny being falsely identified.
My favourite character was Ernestine. Ernestine was a black woman in control of herself and full of righteous anger, which was unleashed when she was faced with the utter lack of love and consideration that Fonny's mother and sisters had for him. She was also the one to secure a lawyer for Fonny's case and she was very much involved in making sure that every effort was being put towards building a solid case for Fonny. Tish's parents were also an important fixture in the fight for Fonny.
This story will definitely get you in your feelings. You will be angry at the experiences of black men in the (in)justice system, happiness for Tish and Fonny's love, empathy for the emotional and mental distress of the women who have men behind bars, love for the unending support and love from Sharon, Joseph and Ernestine, sadness for Frank, disgust for the policeman Bell and Fonny's mother and sisters.
A story that is as relevant today as it was when written.