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If Beale Street Could Talk
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If Beale Street Could Talk

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  2,817 ratings  ·  217 reviews
In this honest and stunning novel, James Baldwin has given America a moving story of love in the face of injustice. Told through the eyes of Tish, a nineteen-year-old girl, in love with Fonny, a young sculptor who is the father of her child, Baldwin's story mixes the sweet and the sad. Tish and Fonny have pledged to get married, but Fonny is falsely accused of a terrible c ...more
Paperback, 197 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by Vintage Books USA (first published 1974)
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Another Country by James BaldwinGiovanni's Room by James BaldwinThe Fire Next Time by James BaldwinGo Tell It on the Mountain by James BaldwinJust Above My Head by James Baldwin
Best of James Baldwin
7th out of 22 books — 37 voters
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City Streets
40th out of 196 books — 43 voters

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Community Reviews

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In one of the more memorable lines of "To Kill a Mockingbird", Atticus Finch tells his daughter Scout to never judge a man until she's walked a mile in his shoes. The lesson, of course, is that it is not possible to walk a mile in another man's shoes (and therefore impossible to ever really know him), and therefore we should never judge.

So if it is impossible to walk in another man's shoes, as an author James Baldwin gets us as close to this as is possible. His writing of disenfranchised African
Anything by James Baldwin is good, but this was the first of his books I read and it soaked my mind in a sweet broth.

Because I came of age in the 1960s and because I was raised in a liberal family, I have always known about James Baldwin. Somehow though I had never read anything he wrote until I read Go Tell It On The Mountain, published in 1953, as part of my Big Fat Reading Project. By then I had read Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. I admire all of those authors immensely, but James Baldwin is in a class of his own.

One of the greatest benefits of reading good fiction comes f
I love James Baldwin. I don't think I need to explain what a talented writer he is; however, there were parts of this book that I felt were a bit melodramatic. That could just be me. There's an argument that takes place between a few people that seemed to get a little crazy in my opinion. Other than that I enjoyed this book and so much of it is recognizable in a present-day context. There are still police officers like the ones in this book, the prison industrial complex still affects black men ...more
I reached the end of this book and didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to do with myself, and I didn't know what to do with the ending. Right now, I don't know how to 'rate' this. I think I will pass on a star rating. I'll just go ahead and say what I feel. What I feel, what I think, and, I suppose, what happened to me during the course of my reading.

You may or may not know this, but I adore James Baldwin. I am enamoured of him and I think he was (one of) the greatest to ever do this art/
Well. Let’s face it: we have read enough love stories already. What new revelation can be said about this topic?

Oh, but it can be. Seriously. And to prove my point let me tell you about two short novels by James Baldwin I have read lately: If Beale Street Could Talk (1974) and Giovanni’s Room (1956).

The title of Beale Street is a bit misleading: the novel is definitely not about one particular street but rather about the world of Harlem, or probably even more.

After taking stock of the main ingre
jessi lee
i just pulled out a selection from this book to read for valentine's day with my adult english class at St. Leonards' high school. it's a pretty easy read. the plot is about a pregnant 19-year old black woman in NYC fighting (with her family) to get her fiance out of jail as he faces a pretty serious charge.

i had forgotten what i loved so much about it, and i'm struck again, reading it, how important it is to love people simply & stubbornly, and how state violence & racism attack that l
He grins again, and everything inside me moves. Oh, love. Love.
Barry Pierce
While this may not be as memorable as Giovanni's Room or Another Country I feel that this is the novel in which Baldwin just sits back and let's his prose do the talking. I must admit that the storyline may not be his greatest but it is endowed with marvellous writing and just gorgeous cynicism. Baldwin is god.
I am just crazy about James Baldwin's later work. The dialogue in this one feels like a Terkel tape recording. Really great. I've noticed a recurrent theme where a passive person must take care of an artistic genius. Exist to keep their flame from going out. Worked to better effect in Just Above My Head, which I absolutely loved. Here the reader can't help but wonder why Tish starts off so unbelievably strong on the very first page and then only bears witness to Fonny's genius. There. I said it. ...more
Crystal Belle
this novel is baldwin's best. i thought another country was it, but this was by far the best! a love story between two african-american teenagers in harlem. their love is tested by the racism of the police and of society in general. the lanaguage is beautiful, cruel, haunting, and passionate all at once. as a human being, you are forced to think, to question and to step outside of what is comfortable. there is also the lingering question throughout: what does it truly mean to be an artist? i fin ...more
Wow! What frank in your face writing. Love reading this story about two lovers who have everything to be happy, except her fiancé has been accused of a crime he didn't commit. Check review at on Wednesday.
A haunting love story that probes the depths of what love means when it is compromised by race, police injustice, poverty, and youth. A fantastic read.

Dora Okeyo
"These captive men are the hidden price for a hidden lie: the righteous must be able to locate the damned. To do much is to have true power and the necessity to dictate to the damned. But that, thinks Fonny, works both ways."

Story: Fonny loves Tish (19years old and pregnant with his child)-but he's been falsely accused of rape-and is imprisoned-and the only thing they can ask is "will he be set free?"

I loved: Tish- for a nineteen year old, she is strong and sees the world for what it is. Injusti
In this novel Baldwin is caught between the naturalistic bent of most of his fiction and a desire to unequivocally champion certain characters and the qualities they possess, i.e., to write about heroes. He clearly thinks the protagonists, Tish and Fonny, and Tish's family are wonderful human beings -- but he can't quite bring himself to present them as making real progress against their troubles in a well-developed plot structure. The reason? He still has a stake in revealing the immense weight ...more
Aug 11, 2008 Zoe rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Zoe by: Holly Telerant
Shelves: book-group
Beautiful and so sad. Heartbreaking, actually. After 35 years, not all that much has changed for African American men in this country. Scenes of young love in the West Village of the mid-20th century brought back poignant glimpses of my (white) parents' youth to me. I like the way sexuality was portrayed in this novel.
Feb 04, 2008 Abigail rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Abigail by: Orisanmi and Mark
SO engrossing. I've already misquoted this book several times in conversation. Baldwin is a genius. It is also so tragic and beautiful that sometimes I have to take a break from it.
Shinji Moon
there are few books that tell more raw of a truth than this. baldwin is an incredible man. i think that everyone should read this.
Amidst the most cruel of circumstances is this, a most tender love story, that brings to mind the phrase, "the rose that grew from concrete". I was not expecting that. Set in the 70's in New York City, two young black people, powerless to a horrible system, painfully aware of their poverty and circumstances, cultivate the most touching relationship. Instead of relying on flowery prose, the simplistic writing sets a scene, with the language- jive, baby, ya dig, the location-Black Harlem, hipster ...more
Brandon O'Neill
This is my 2nd James Baldwin novel. I loved Go Tell It On The Mountain. It was no surprise I didn't like this as much, but I still love his style of writing.
The story dealt with Fonny and Tish, 2 young African-Americans in early 70's New York, who are in love, but separated when Fonny is accused of rape. Racism is the underlying and overlying subtext - the white cop who arrested Fonny, how they are treated in NY and the U.S. itself. With all the talk of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and racism in the
If Beale Street Could Talk accomplishes what most modern fiction aims to do, but falls short of executing. Baldwin’s use of voice is not only believable, but familiar, internal. Baldwin never abandons clarity for flourish; the language is plain, accessible, yet emotive and contemplative. A master of tense, Baldwin slides between the present and past tense, in effect reinventing the structure of the novel form. This work, more than any others of Baldwin’s catalog, shows a clear Faulknerian influe ...more
I read this book for book club, and liked it. Although there were some parts that were a little too weird and detailed and the end left me feeling really unresolved about everything, I think it raises a lot of interesting questions and is an interesting read by a good author.
Andrew Thomas Clifton
It is the best writing I have ever had the pleasure of reading, this simple book with simple people living a simple life is much more than just a love story. Its a prodigal work that both sees forward and looks backward into what love means for two people

It taught me that love can be true, even when the world stands against it. that love is individually and collectively its own being to be grown and cultivated and loved. It made me cherish the experiences of growing up Negro in America, and want
Greta Gilbertson
I wondered why this book is titled as it is. Did he ever mention Beale Street? Baldwin is an amazing writer and his storytelling skills are just, just out of this world. I do, if I may timidly state, find him over dramatic, at moments... Also i had trouble seeing the substance of the relationship of Tish and her boyfriend. Be that as it may, This book tells us alot about black families and about the tragedies of living in a racist society. The ending I found somewhat frustrating in that it seeme ...more
Tania Casillas
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Felix Purat
Told from the point of view of a young lady from Harlem named Clementine, If Beale Street Could Talk was an interesting read. Less adventurous than his compadre Chester Himes, James Baldwin paints a portrait of desperation in which Clementine's family tries to free her fiance, Fonny, from jail when he is imprisoned for a crime that he did not commit. One of Baldwin's strengths is that his characters are well developed, and stand out from each other very well. There is no room for magical realism ...more
It felt awful to have to turn over each page and find yet more emotional sincerity, which, in this book and probably everywhere else, actually works against itself. I pretty much hated it and usually I don't finish books I hate, because when you get to the end, nothing happens, the book preserves no spot in your brain except as a negative blot. I guess its skill as a nauseating agent kind of over-powered me and forced me to finish it. Damn.
I just finished reading this book for my Academic Writing course and haven't decided if I liked it or not... However, I will say that it is incredibly powerful - the characters are well-formed and draw you in. It isn't necessarily a book I would have picked up by myself to read for enjoyment, but James Baldwin does an excellent job of forcing the reader to think about the issues he is presenting.
Some stories just can’t get into your head. No matter how much you try, no matter how well it is written, no matter how many times other people praise it, the book just refuses to grab your attention. It’s like trying to write on paper with a white colored pencil.

This was one of those stories for me: The emotional journey of two young black lovers and their families, trapped in the difficult and racist world of 1970s New York City. The majority is told in the point of view of Tish, pregnant and
 Imani ♥ ☮
My first Baldwin and it is one of the most heartbreaking stories I've read in quite a while. Baldwin writes the hopelessness of the characters so's like you can feel it in your bones. This is quite a simple story and like real people, none of the characters are really what they seem. They are completely complex and in a short-ish story like this, it leaves the reader so many questions. I hate the ending. I am furious with the system and everything that led to the end of the story but i ...more
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Ending of the Book 1 6 Dec 29, 2014 04:52PM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic.

James Baldwin offered a vital literary voice during the era of civil rights activism in the 1950s and '60s. The eldest of nine children, his stepfather was a minister. At age 14, Bal
More about James Baldwin...
Go Tell It on the Mountain Giovanni's Room The Fire Next Time Notes of a Native Son Another Country

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“Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.” 76 likes
“Those kids aren't dumb. But the people who run these schools want to make sure they don't get smart: they are really teaching the kids to be slaves.” 30 likes
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