Toni Morrison Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom – Meet my Favourite Author!

Toni Morrison, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1993, is probably one of the most influential authors who deals with racism and gender issues. Her language is pure poetry and her novels give African Americans and their history a much needed voice! I think her novels really made me understand (even though I probably can never fully understand) what issues African Americans have to deal with and had to deal with during their traumatic history and in the present. Toni Morrison is my favourite author and I think everyone should read her novels! By the way, I have a very important exam tomorrow – about “Paradise” and “The Bluest Eye” written by Toni Morrison!

The Bluest Eye

Set in Lorain, Ohio, in 1941, The Bluest Eye is something of an ensemble piece. The point of view is passed like a baton from one character to the next, with Morrison’s own voice functioning as a kind of gold standard throughout. The focus, though, is on an 11-year-old black girl named Pecola Breedlove, whose entire family has been given a cosmetic cross to bear:

You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their conviction. It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without question…. And they took the ugliness in their hands, threw it as a mantle over them, and went about the world with it.

There are far uglier things in the world than, well, ugliness, and poor Pecola is subjected to most of them. She’s spat upon, ridiculed, and ultimately raped and impregnated by her own father. No wonder she yearns to be the very opposite of what she is–yearns, in other words, to be a white child, possessed of the blondest hair and the bluest eye.

This vein of self-hatred is exactly what keeps Morrison’s novel from devolving into a cut-and-dried scenario of victimization. She may in fact pin too much of the blame on the beauty myth: “Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another–physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion.” Yet the destructive power of these ideas is essentially colorblind, which gives The Bluest Eye the sort of universal reach that Morrison’s imitators can only dream of. And that, combined with the novel’s modulated pathos and musical, fine-grained language, makes for not merely a sophisticated debut but a permanent one. –James Marcus

Paradise

“They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time. No need to hurry out here. They are 17 miles from a town which has 90 miles between it and any other. Hiding places will be plentiful in the Convent, but there is time and the day has just begun.” So begins Paradise, Toni Morrison’s first novel since winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993. As one would expect from the author of such brilliantly imagined novels as Song of Solomon, Beloved and Jazz, Morrison’s Paradise is ambitious, political, deeply spiritual and peopled with characters as complex as they are unforgettable. Time is fluid in the universe of this particular novel; though set in 1976, Morrison travels easily between eras, taking the reader back in time to the founding of Ruby, an all-black township in Oklahoma, at the end of World War II, then further back to the establishment of its predecessor, Haven, which parallels the story of Exodus: a band of former slaves wanders the Oklahoma territory in search of a homeland. Overlying the strong sense of character and place that imbues each page is a touch of the supernatural–ghost children skitter through the halls of an abandoned Catholic girl’s school and “unseen friends” visit lonely women by night.

Even as Morrison deftly limns the history of the town and its inhabitants, she lays the foundation for the conflict brewing in the present-day story: A new minister has come to town, bringing with him a whiff of the politics that engulfed that era–civil rights, student uprisings, rioting in the streets–activities which speak to the restlessness of the town’s youth. Meanwhile, 17 miles away at the former girls’ school nicknamed “the Convent,” a small group of unconventional women have moved in. Their stories, told in individual chapters bearing their names, are also stories of exile, exodus and eventual homecoming. For the men of Ruby, however, these women represent everything that is dangerous about the outside world and as the sanctity of Ruby’s traditions begin to crumble, nine men go on a deadly hunt.

As always, Morrison is not afraid to explore the relations between the races or the genders and she is particularly adept at creating characters who, though frequently not likable, are always sympathetic. Paradise is a book you’ll want to read more than once and each time you’ll find something new to haunt and amaze you. — Amazon.com

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