My readings for the NEH program that I attended this summer really started me on the road to frantically reading trying to understand race and racism.....
On my return home from my summer travels, I read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and this book was the first of many that I have read lately that has me really thinking and rethinking my thoughts on race. Reading up on Coates, I found out that he is a student of Baldwin, and I began to think that I need to give Baldwin some of my time. A few books after Between the World and Me, I read Losing My Cool, by Thomas Williams, and he also makes reference to James Baldwin in his book.
So, I called my professor of African American history friend to talk about Baldwin, and he gave me lots of insight, and he told me to study Baldwin for myself. My friend, Trinia, a fellow NEH scholar, suggested that I read some of Baldwin’s essays, and another friend, Rob, suggested that I read The Last Interview and Other Conversations.
So, I decided to read the interviews first to get to know Baldwin better, then I read his essays where he eloquently expounds upon some of the issues in American as he saw them, and he even offered some hope. Finally, If Beale Street Could Talk, a fiction piece, was highly recommended by my friend, Julia, and so I spent one of the most beautiful days sitting at my favorite market frantically reading If Beale Street Could Talk.
If Beale Street Could Talk is told from the perspective of a nineteen year old lady, Tish, who is madly in love with twenty-two year old, Fonny. Tish’s voice is so clear and honest, and she tells about the love between she and Fonny in a manner that would make even the love doubter want to fall in love.
However, Fonny is in jail for rape, and Tish and her entire family are doing all that they can to get her love out of jail and home to her and his baby that she is carrying. However, being that this is a James Baldwin story, it just ain’t that simple when a person is Black and living in America.
I was enthralled by this story and was believing for a happy ending, but I am coming to the realization that sometimes the happy ending just does not come, and it didn’t in If Beale Street Could Talk.
This story is short and intense and it shows the complexity of race and racism in American, and I Oh how I wish that the details of this story did not ring true today. But, sadly they do.
My people, I finished this book with an extremely heavy heart, mainly because I am a sucker for happy endings, but really because I thought of the pain that writing this book must have caused James Baldwin.
This is a book that needs to be read and discussed, and read again and discussed, and then read again and discussed...
James Baldwin is someone whom we all should read, and I almost never use the word should, but should is an appropriate word when it comes to reading James Baldwin.
So, my people, for awhile, I must escape this intense world of reading that has completely engulfed me in order to give my heart and brain a little break. So, I will be reading The House Girl by Tara Conklin. I sure hope that it offers the relief that I need...