Take Ten: Toni Morrison

Photo courtesy of independent.co.uk.

Today just happens to be Toni Morrison‘s 85th birthday, so we thought we’d highlight her great novels. She is an epic figure in U.S. arts and letters, and is the most recent American writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature (1993). Her latest novel, God Help the Child, was published just last year, and she continues to write and teach. If you haven’t read Morrison before, or if you haven’t read her for awhile, pick up one of her books and get started. Titles with an * are ones I highly recommend.

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The Bluest Eye

  • Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl in an America whose love for blonde, blue-eyed children can devastate all others, prays for her eyes to turn blue, so that she will be beautiful, people will notice her, and her world will be different.

Sula*

  • At the heart of Sula is a bond between two women, a friendship whose intensity first sustains, then injures. Sula and Nel are both black, both smart, and both poor. Through their girlhood years, they share everything. All this changes when Sula gets out of the Bottom, the hilltop neighborhood where there hides a fierce resentment at the invisible line that cannot be overstepped.

The Song of Solomon

  • Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly.

Tar Baby

  • On a tropical island paradise, six people interact with each other in all the tender or hateful ways that human beings are capable of. Rich and poor, black and white, young and old, male and female, each has something to teach the others–and each has something to learn.

Beloved*

  • Sethe, an escaped slave living in post-Civil War Ohio with her daughter and mother-in-law, is persistently haunted by the ghost of her dead baby girl.

Jazz

  • In Harlem, 1926, Joe Trace, a door-to-door salesman in his fifties, kills his teenage lover. A profound love story which depicts the sights and sounds of Black urban life during the Jazz Age.

Paradise*

  • Tells the story of Ruby, Oklahoma, an all Black town settled by a dozen families in the 1890s when they were turned away from other communities. But now it’s the 1970s and the men of the town blame the women and the women’s shelter for the change in their community’s character.

Love

  • The epitome of a group of women’s ideals about love, fatherhood, and friendship, wealthy hotel owner Bill Cosey finds his life compromised by his troubled past and his feelings about a spellbinding woman named Celestial.

A Mercy

  • In exchange for a bad debt, an Anglo-Dutch trader takes on Florens, a young slave girl, who feels abandoned by her slave mother and who searches for love–first from an older servant woman at her master’s new home, and then from a handsome free blacksmith, in a novel set in late seventeenth-century America.

Home*

  • The story of a Korean war veteran on a quest to save his younger sister

God Help the Child*

  • Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child is a searing tale about the way childhood trauma shapes and misshapes the life of the adult.

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Annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus, which has even more great stuff about books and authors, along with suggestions and series information.

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