Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Mercy

I LOVE Toni Morrison and all of her books, even the bad ones (ahem, Love). I was introduced to Toni Morrison at a very young age. My mother would sometimes weep as she read The Bluest Eye, for reasons that I couldn't understand.

I was afraid of that book for a long time. So afraid to crack it open and see what was inside. Have you ever had that feeling while reading a book? In fact, as a grown woman, if I open The Bluest Eye and read for a few pages, I end up in tears, but I'm also in awe. How could a book have so much power over one person?

Throughout the years, TBE had a profound effect on me for reasons unrelated to the content of the book. Yes, the content disturbed me and made me angry, and my heart broke a million times over, but this was the first book that most of my all-white classmates read that had a black protagonist.

I was angry at my teachers for having us read this book. I thought that they had assigned this book as an attack against me, and that I would forever be labeled as something that I was not, or worse--that I would be pitied. I still haven't worked out my feelings on this. Often it was awkward when I raised my hand to provide a viewpoint that seemed so obvious to me, but to nobody else. It was horrible when I felt that nobody could really understand what the characters in the book had to deal with because they were socialized so differently from me. I rejected that book, and many other books that dealt with the phrase "African-American Literature" throughout high school. I didn't want to be looked at for guidance, or have to provide my opinion as the "only African-American in my class."

I may sound bitter, but I'm not. You see, I had to read this book to grow up, and to face the issues that disturbed me so. In college, I became so fascinated by Toni Morrison that I took a class on her and read every. single. book. she ever wrote.

Morrison is a great writer. Yes, she might rehash several themes in her novels, but you know what? They're important, especially the theme of the collective black identity.

WELL, enough about how I felt like an outsider in my high school class and how TBE saved me and my identity. I already speak about that way too much (identity, that is). What I'm really excited about is that Ms. Morrison has a new book, coming out in November 2008.

A Mercy is a novel about what lies beneath the surface of slavery- a favorite topic of Morrison's- and mine. And like Beloved, focuses on the story of a mother and daughter- a mother who casts her daughter off to save her, and a daughter who can't get rid of her feelings of abandonment.

I'm really excited to read this book. If it's anything like Beloved (and it sounds like it might be dangerously close to being Beloved II), then it can either be a very good thing or a very bad thing. I'm hoping that it will be a great book. As I said earlier, I'm not a big fan of Morrison's previous novel, Love, so I hope that she is able to redeem herself with A Mercy.

I think she will. Putting this on the Amazon list.

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