If Beale Street Could Talk

Well, that was devastating.

If Beale Street Could Talk is a wonderful book with so much love in it that is nonetheless about how structural racism can ultimately affect that love. Tish and Fonny are a young couple in love, and how they became a couple is told in flashbacks to the main story, where Fonny has been jailed for a crime he didn’t commit, and their struggle to free him.

It’s James Baldwin, so the language is marvelous; it’s James Baldwin, so the racism is cuttingly accurate. But what really struck me was all of the ways that love is shown in the story – the romantic love between Tish and Fonny, but also the friendship between Fonny and Daniel and the sisterly relationship between Tish and Ernestine and the parent-child relationship between Fonny and his father as well as Tish and her parents. The story is bleak, but the relationships and the caring that exists between people in the book was what made it worth reading to me.

Highly recommended.

Books as comfort food

Here’s the book about relationships I’ve been craving, and it’s an old one. Published in 1993 (and one I’ve read and re-read and moved across the country more than once), it’s practically comfort food at this point. The Mystery Roast is about the family we make for ourselves, not just the family we have.

There’s Timothy and Eric (friends), Eric and Inca (romantic-ish), Timothy and Andre (definitely romantic), Lydia and Marec (romantic-ish), Lydia and Jason (complicated), and Eric and Lydia (familial). Relationships and family.

There’s also something about polar bears. We can’t forget the polar bears.

It revolves around a coffeeshop in still slightly sketchy New York City, pre Sex and the City. Andre owns the coffeeshop; Inca, Eric, and Timothy all have apartments in the building. Lydia is Eric’s mother, and it’s wonderful that she gets her own romantic storyline. It’s not something I find much, but maybe I’m reading the wrong stories.

There is a bit of plot to mention about Eric stealing an ancient statue at the beginning of the book, and it sets the plot in motion. But it’s not like he’s a thief, not a professional one anyway. It does turn into a bit of a meditation about desire and when it’s good and when it’s bad.

Basically, I just love The Mystery Roast. It makes me happy, and I’d recommend it to anyone.