American writer Toni Morrison (1931 – 2019) is known for her writings on the Black American experience. The characters of her novels are in an unjust society and they struggle with their cultural identity and finding themselves. Morrison’s books focus on rural Afro-American communities. Her works are popular because of her use of fantasy, vivid vocabulary, cold details, the interweaving of mythic aspects, and supple poetic style. In this article, we are going to read about Top 10 must-read books by Toni Morrison.
Top 10 Must-Read Books by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye
The Bluest Eye is popular for its boldness of vision and the richness of language. It is set in Lorain, Ohio, the hometown of Toni Morrison. The story is about eleven-year-old black Pecola Breedlove. She prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she becomes as beautiful as the blonde and blue-eyed American children. In the autumn of 1941, the marigolds did not bloom in Breedlove’s garden. Her life alters devastatingly and painfully.
Sula follows the lives of two black heroines from their childhood in a small town in Ohio, then through their different paths of womanhood to their confrontation and understanding. Nel Wright has decided to stay where she was born, get married and raise a family and become a pillar of the black community. On the other hand, Sula Peace has rejected the life Nel has chosen. Sula went to college and submerged herself in city life. She returns to her roots as a wanton seductress. Eventually, Nel and Sula must face the consequences of their choices. Together they create a memorable portrait of what it takes to be a black woman in America.
Song of Solomon
Song of Solomon is a coming-of-age story of Macon Dead. Macon is the son of a rich black man in a Midwestern City. This is one of the characters of Morrison that is flawed and manages to help you understand why they are the way they are. The story is about the past and how that directs the path of our lives. Macon watched his father getting killed and getting his land stolen. He becomes a man who is cold and only cares about material possessions. In his neighborhood, he is the only man who owns a car. Every week he takes his family out on a joyless ride, out of duty.
Valerian is a 70-year-old rich American businessman. He has purchased an island near Haiti and came for an extended stay with his wife Margaret. They have two servants Sydney and Ondine. Valerian has been generous with his orphaned niece Jadine. He sent Jadine to school. She is in her twenties, superficial and sensual. Son arrives in their lives having jumped a boat and hidden in their house without getting caught. The racism and sordid family history come out on the surface. Everything results in Valerian in denial and reclusion and Jadine and Son run off to New York.
Sethe was a born slave. Even though she escaped to Ohio, eighteen years later she still does not know liberty. She is captive by the memories of Sweet Home. It is a beautiful farm where several gruesome things happened. In the meantime, Sethe’s house is haunted by the destructive and fuming ghost of her baby. The baby died nameless with just the word “Beloved” engraved on the tombstone. Sethe struggles to fight her past. When a teenage girl arrives calling herself Beloved, Sethe’s past explodes into the present.
The second novel of the Beloved trilogy Jazz is set in the winter of 1926. When everyone sees nothing but good things ahead, middle-aged door-to-door salesman Joe Trace of Cleopatra beauty products shoots his teenage lover to death. At the funeral of the girl, Joe’s wife Violet attacks the corpse of the girl. This is a passionate story of obsession and love as the narrative is assembled from hopes, fears, and realities of black urban life.
The third novel of the Beloved trilogy opens with a sickening scene of mass violence. It chronicles its genesis in an all-black small town in Oklahoma. Ruby’s patriarchal community is built on fear, enforced moral law, and righteousness. It is founded by the descendants of survivors of exodus and freed slaves from a hostile world. Seventeen miles away there is another group of exiles who have gathered in a promised land of their own. It is upon these women in flight from desolation and death that nine men of Ruby will lay their terror, pain, and murderous rage.
The story focuses on Black entrepreneur Black Cosey and the women who fight for his attention – his very young wife, granddaughter, daughter-in-law, and many more. His granddaughter Christine and wife Heed are the main characters of this novel. Even though Cosey has died decades ago, his presence is still as strong and disturbing in the lives of these women. The novel is about bitterness, hurt, misunderstandings, and anger.
Frank Money is a self-loathing and angry veteran of the Korean War. After his traumatic experiences on the front lines, he finds himself back in racist America with not just only physical scars. To him, his home is an alien environment. However, he is surprised by his crippling apathy for the need to help his medically abused sister and take her back to a small Georgia town. They are from this town and Frank has hated this place all his life. As he revisits the memories of war and childhood, he discovers a courage he thought he has lost forever.
God Help the Child
Lula Ann Bridewell is a blue-black beautiful woman who is abused by her light-skinned parents. She is elegant, and tall, and dresses up only in white to reflect her beauty. But Bride did not know how to wear her beauty. As a child, her mother Sweetness punished her for her dark skin. Her mother’s husband could not love dark-skinned Bride. Even her mother insisted she calls her by her name instead of any motherly terms. She grew up without affection and love. Even though it is easier to hate Sweetness, she had her reasons too. Sweetness believes she is protecting her daughter with this treatment as the world will be even crueler to her.
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