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If Beale Street Could Talk

A Novel
Written by: James Baldwin
Narrated by: Bahni Turpin
Length: 7 hrs and 7 mins
4 out of 5 stars (80 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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 19-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 is 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.

©1974 James Baldwin. © renewed 2002 by Gloria Baldwin Karefa-Smart (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Masterfully Written

Baldwin captures the grittiness of day-to-day living and his words paint such a vivid reality you feel as if you are there with Tish and Fonny. Bahni Turpin's narration adds life to the characters and helps you to really feel their struggles.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Powerful narrative of life and love

I feel sheepish about admitting this, but this is my first James Baldwin book. Boy do I have work to do! His lyrical language and acuteness in racial conflict observations makes for a wonderful narrative. Bahni Turpin is superb. This is my third book narrated by her, and she is very much a favourite narrator of mine. A must read/listen.

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Stunning. Beautiful. Haunting. Devastating.

A book that is as meaningful today as it was in 1973. Quite possibly one of the greatest books I have ever read...but oh how my heart breaketh to realize how very little things have changed.

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Loved it!!!

Just a joy to listen too. James Baldwin is a master of imagery and the language.

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Beautiful, but so sad

The writing is magnificent. The reader Bahni Turpin does a wonderful job. The tone is intimate and thoughtful. A definite must read.

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So real at times

The story, as a whole, is so upsettingly real, that it made me want to scream at the way things are. Other times, it felt embellished in order to make the point more clear, and at those times I found myself annoyed or bored. Overall, I’m glad I engaged with this text. Worth the read. Good narrator.

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If Beale Street Could Talk

struggled to finish. I enjoyed the narrator though. was disappointed in the ending as one left no knowing the outcome for all.

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  • Laurel Futures
  • 2018-06-08

Exquisite Narration

The narration captures the range of voices and adopts throughout the personas of Baldwin’s female characters. Such a tender story delivered tenderly, yet Baldwin’s poetic depictions of daily violence, subjugation, hunger, wariness, fear are not drowned by the protagonist’s sweetness. Baldwin drives us into his world view and sculpts a girl-woman in words.

25 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • Vicky
  • 2016-03-22

The narrator did her thing, I love it!!!

This book is a mirror of my life. From jail, their ages, their families, the charges, the innocence, to the mother venturing out and seeking truth. I am with my husband this very day 23 years later. I know this kind of love, Mr. Baldwin nailed it. Well done.

48 of 50 people found this review helpful

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  • Lynne Charles
  • 2019-01-11

Hated for it to end.

Greeaatttt book! Love Bahni Turpin's voice. Only disappointment was the ending. Came away wanting to know more about the characters.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Erica
  • 2018-05-28

Absolutely Amazing

This book was amazing. James Baldwin has such a way with words. I will definitely come back to listen to this book a few times!!!

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Adam Shields
  • 2019-04-07

Beautifully written, but so tragic

I read this soon after finishing the book Rethinking Incarceration. I did not do it intentionally, but If Beale Street Could Talk is a perfect fictional followup to that non-fiction book on the criminal justice system. The issues of poverty, police misconduct, the broad powers of the district attorney's office on how to charge and how to bundle charges, the violence of the prisons themselves, the focus on retributive and not restorative justice, the enormous financial and emotional costs placed not just on the accused, but the extended networks and family of the accused and more are all here.

Baldwin is such an incredible writer. This is the third fiction book of Baldwin's I have read and the first that I have really liked. I appreciate Baldwin's skill with his other fiction, but I don't really like the characters. This is also the first book of his that I have read that has a female narrator (in the story) and that is done very well. Bahni Turpin's book narration also captures the strength of Tish and the tragedy of the situation well.

This is a heavy story. One that I did not really want to pick up because I knew the rough story line. And one that I set down several times because of the weight, but it was well worth reading and the weight is based on truth, not sentimentality or falseness.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-01-04

Amazing story. Amazing performance

The woman who did the performance of this book was outstanding to say the least. I have never listed to an audio book with such an amazing and provocative performance.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Oriana Bledsoe
  • 2019-03-07

a great book to listen to while driving

I love the story . the narrator was great she was blessed to change for each character made the characters come alive.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Chilired
  • 2019-05-02

Slow moving story

The movie received rave reviews and I thought I would try the book first. It was very slow and did not grab me from the start. The story line jumped around which made it hard to follow.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Blessedbythebest1
  • 2019-06-12

where's the ending?

did I miss something? maybe I didn't get all the chapters?? it's jumped to the end and skipped lots of details.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Drivera
  • 2019-05-18

good but...

I felt the story jumped around too much, especially near the end. It almost seemed as if I were listening to an abridged version, but it's not. it was a good story and it held my interest but I think some details were left out... not on purpose, i think it's just the authors style of writing but I was left wondering about a lot of things in it. in any case, the narrator did a fantastic job! I think she kept my interest in the book more so (much more) than if I had read it myself.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful