One Book One Hartford brings our richly diverse city together around a good book. In If Beale Street Could Talk, literary giant James Baldwin presents 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 sublime and the tragic. Tish and Fonny have pledged to get married, but Fonny is falsely accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned.
Widely considered a classic and taught at universities throughout the country, Beale Street is a frank exploration of racial hatred, family struggles and sexual love. It is a short book – less than 200 pages – but moves forward on the powerful undertow of suffering and disenfranchisement many African Americans still face.
The Library will offer a variety of public programming targeted to adult audiences throughout the fall. These will connect the community to this story, which is not only enduring but holds great resonance for Hartford, where Governor Dannel P. Malloy this year saw his “Second Chance Society” – with its mandate to reintegrate nonviolent offenders into society – become law.
Among related programming going on this year in relation to Baldwin’s work are public forums, film screenings, art exhibitions and other events throughout Connecticut and in a variety of locations, including schools, churches and libraries.
“We believe in the relevance and life-enhancing nature of ‘Beale Street, ‘ ” said Matthew K. Poland, the Library’s Chief Executive Officer, “and we are going to do everything we can to share this book in a thoughtful way.” He added that renowned novelist Wally Lamb and Jacqueline Goldsby, Chair of the African American Studies Department at Yale University, are working to develop questions to help readers understand the book more deeply. Born in Harlem, New York City, in 1924, James Arthur Baldwin became a distinctive and vital literary voice during the era of Civil Rights activism in the 1950s and ’60s. He died in 1987.