If Beale Street Could Talk book is a 1974 novel written by American novelist James Baldwin. It is his fifth novel (and 13th book overall), and it is a love story with a setting in Harlem in the early 1970s.
The title is an allusion to the 1916 W.C. Handy blues song “Beale Street Blues”, titled after Beale Street in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee.
It was adapted as a film of the same name, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, and it gained an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Regina King. The film premiered theatrically on December 14, 2018.
The plot revolves around a relationship between a 19-year-old girl named Tish, real name Clementine Rivers, and a 22-year-old sculptor named Fonny, real name Alonzo Hunt.
They grew up in the same New York City neighborhood and were childhood friends. They fall in love and get married.
When Tish is 21, however, Fonny is falsely accused of raping a woman and is arrested and imprisoned pending his trial. Tish discovers she is pregnant after Fonny is imprisoned and is forced to rely on her and Fonny’s family for support. Fonny is incarcerated due to the failures of the criminal justice system.
Beale Street is Baldwin’s first novel to focus solely on a Black love story; it is also the only novel in his corpus that is narrated by a woman.
It was published near the end of the Black Arts Movement and explores love in Black life, focusing on the emotional bonds that hold two African American families together.