When my Toni isn’t writing novels, she lends her considerable talents to writing librettos for operas. This opera is titled “Margaret Garner” based on the real-life slave woman who killed her daughter rather than allowing her to be taken back into slavery. Toni Morrison based her fictional novel, Beloved, on the life of Margaret Garner. Denyce Graves, a mezzo-soprano, sings lead. Enjoy. ♥
I never thought I would be creating a top ten list of books. It’s impossible to narrow down all of the great literature out there, and even harder to specify it among racial lines. Different books speak to us for different reasons, and it’s difficult to pin down the top ten books that someone else should read. The following list will include ten of the books that have resonated with me the most. They do not appear in any particular order, and they all are immensely important to me. I don’t know what kind of person I would be today if I had not encountered these works of literature. With a humble mind, and a sharing heart, here are my top ten book recommendations.
“Whose house is this?” – Toni Morrison
It is this question that ushers us into the world of Toni Morrison’s tenth novel Home. Like so many of Morrison’s novels, Home is not a singular thing, but a stand-in for many different conceptions. Throughout the novel, Toni Morrison asks us to think about what “home” is, and what it means to be “at home” with ones self.
Home’s plot is relatively simple. Frank Money, a discharged Korean War, returns two an American brimming with racism. He receives an urgent letter telling him that he must return to Georgia to save his sister. We are to join him on his “odyssey” as he returns “home.”
At just 147 pages, I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish that Home were longer. There are many chapters, like the one dedicated to Lenore (the “evil” matriarch) that I wish were longer. After a life changing incident, Lenore is forced “to be content with the company of the person she prized most of all–herself.” Morrison, unlike so many writers, has never apologized for writing women who are beholden only to themselves. She breaks away from the patriarchal tendency to believe that a woman should be someone else’s best thing before she is her own. I could have spent the entire book reading about Lenore, but this is Toni Morrison’s story to tell, and I can’t fault her for not allowing her characters, dynamic as they are, to run off with the story. I wish more would have let her characters soar rather that just appear. They are dynamic, but dimmed a bit. I think you will find Lenore’s chapter to be quite powerful.
As powerful as Lenore’s chapter is, this is the story of Frank Money. It is through his eyes, and as you will find out his defiance, that we are allowed into the “home” that Morrison has constructed. Frank Money is scarred psychologically from his time spent at war. As Money returns to Georgia Morrison imbues his journey with the beautiful social commentary that only she can provide. We are asked to grapple with the consequences of war, the dynamics of intimate relationships, the painful history of medical experimentation upon Blacks, Jim Craw laws as well as customs, and many other issues that are not unique to the 1950s. One of the main issues that Morrison concerns herself with in Home, is what it means to be a man that is “at home” with himself? Is manhood honesty, vulnerability, action, or apathy? Perhaps a mixture of all?
Morrison’s writing is beautiful, but understated. The scope of the novel is small, but the themes are large. This is the Morrison that we know and love, but toned down and more restrained. It’s as if Morrison wrOte the entire novel with “less is more” constantly on her mind.
Overall, Home is a fitting chronicle of a particular period in the Black experience. It serves as an approachable history, one not rendered cold as can often be the case in non-fiction books. There is a shocking revelation at the end of the novel, and it perfectly encapsulates what it means to be “at home” with oneself. The events following this revelation allow the main character to be “at home” with himself. It provides an example to us all of what it means to come home.
We should work hard to not become strangers in our own house. We should strive to not be a house of lies. Frank takes on this challenge. Will you?
“Since the murder of Martin Luther King, new commandments had been sworn, laws introduced bust most of it was decorative: statues, street names, speeches. It was as though something valuable had been pawned and the claim ticket lost… Question was, who pawned it in the first place and why.” – Toni Morrison
“We all know nations that can be identified by the flight of writers from their shores. These are regimes whose fear of unmonitored writing is justified because truth is trouble. It is trouble for the warmonger, the torturer, the corporate thief, the political hack, the corrupt justice system, and for a comatose public. Unpersecuted, unjailed, unharassed writers are trouble for the ignorant bully, the sly racist, and the predators feeding off the world’s resources. The alarm, the disquiet, writers raise is instructive because it is open and vulnerable, because if unpoliced it is threatening. Therefore the historical suppression of writers is the earliest harbinger of the steady peeling away of additional rights and liberties that will follow. The history of persecuted writers is as long as the history of literature itself. And the efforts to censor, starve, regulate, and annihilate us are clear signs that something important has taken place. Cultural and political forces can sweep clean all but the “safe,” all but state-approved art.” – Toni Morrison
What does it benefit Gays, Blacks, or Women to follow the Master Narrative?
That shit don’t benefit us not one bit.
All it does is make us self hating blacks who think that white and lighter skin is inherently better than dark skin.
All it does is make us self hating gays who think that gays are inferior to and less than straights. And that straights by nothing more than the virtue of their straightness are inherently superior to every other sexual orientation.
All it does is make women think that they really are inferior to men. That they really are defective men who somehow should follow behind men and accept their place as second class citizens.
The Master Narrative tells us that women shouldn’t be paid the same as men, that blacks aren’t be beautiful or intelligent, and that gays love is somehow less valid than that of straights.
Unless you are a wealthy, white, able bodied, heterosexual man you have no business following the Master Narrative and its high time we started waking up and realizing that we who are Black, Gay, or Woman need to stop following, perpetuating, reinforcing, sustaining, and maintaining, the Master Narrative.