If Beale Street Could Talk

James Baldwin

emotional medium-paced

197 pages | first published 1974

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 crime and imprisoned. Their families set out to clear his name, and as they face an uncertain future, the young lovers experience a kaleidoscope of emotions-affection, despair, and hope. In a love story that evokes the blues, where passion and sadness are inevitably intertwined, Baldwin has created two characters so alive and profoundly realized that they are unforgettably ingrained in the American psyche.

What the community thinks

summary of 1444 ratings (see reviews)

Content warnings

Expand filter menu View warnings


emotional 94%
sad 65%
reflective 51%
challenging 28%
dark 27%
tense 27%
hopeful 22%
informative 9%
inspiring 9%
funny 4%


medium 67%
slow 17%
fast 14%

Plot- or character-driven?

Character: 55% | A mix: 41% | Plot: 3%

Strong character development?

Yes: 63% | It's complicated: 22% | No: 10% | N/A: 4%

Loveable characters?

Yes: 78% | It's complicated: 17% | No: 3% | N/A: 2%

Diverse cast of characters?

Yes: 93% | It's complicated: 4% | No: 2% | N/A: 1%

Flaws of characters a main focus?

Yes: 41% | It's complicated: 35% | No: 15% | N/A: 7%

Average rating