May, Christine, Heed, Junior, Vida–even L: all women obsessed
with Bill Cosey. The wealthy owner of the famous Cosey’s Hotel and Resort,
he shapes their yearnings for father, husband, lover, guardian, and friend,
yearnings that dominate the lives of these women long after his death. Yet
while he is either the void in, or the center of, their stories, he himself
is driven by secret forces–a troubled past and a spellbinding woman named
This audacious exploration into the nature of love–its appetite, its sublime
possession, its dread–is rich in characters, striking scenes, and a profound
understanding of how alive the past can be.
A major addition to the canon of one of the world’s literary masters.
Paradise (1998) -- 1998
Oprah Book Club
"They shoot the white girl first. With the others they can take
their time." Toni Morrison's first novel since she was awarded the Nobel
Prize for Literature opens with a horrifying scene of mob violence then
chronicles its genesis in a small all-black town in rural Oklahoma.
Founded by descendants of free slaves as intent on isolating themselves
from the outside world as it once was on rejecting them, the patriarchal
community of Ruby is built on righteousness, rigidly enforced moral law,
and fear. But seventeen miles away, another group of exiles has gathered
in a promised land of their own. And it is upon these women in flight from
death and despair that nine male citizens of Ruby will lay their pain,
their terror, and their murderous rage...
Paradise is a tour de force of storytelling power, richly imagined and
elegantly composed. Morrison challenges our most fiercely held beliefs as
she weaves folklore and history, memory and myth, into an unforgettable
meditation on race, religion, gender, and the way a society can turn on
itself until it is forced to explode.
It is winter, barely three days into 1926, seven years
after Armistice; we are in the scintillating City, around Lenox Avenue,
"when all the wars are over and there will never be another one...At last,
at last, everything's ahead...Here comes the new. Look out. There goes the
sad stuff. The bad stuff. The things-nobody-could-help stuff." But amid the
euphoric decisiveness, a tragedy ensues among people who had train-danced
into the City, from points south and west, in search of promise.
Joe Trace--in his fifties, door-to-door salesman of Cleopatra beauty
products, erstwhile devoted husband--shoots to death his lover of three
months, impetuous, eighteen-year-old Dorcas ("Everything was like a picture
show to her"). At the funeral, his determined, hard-working wife, Violet,
herself a hairdresser--who is given to stumbling into dark mental cracks,
and who talks mostly to birds--tries with a knife to disfigure the corpse.
In a dazzling act of jazz-like improvisation, moving seamlessly in and out
of past, present, and future, a mysterious voice--whose identity is a matter
of each reader's imagination--weaves this brilliant fiction, at the same
time showing how its blues are informed by the brutal exigencies of
slavery. Richly combining history, legend, reminiscence, this voice captures
as never before the ineffable mood, the complex humanity, of black urban
life at a moment in our century we assumed we understood.
Jazz is an unprecedented and astonishing invention,
a landmark on the American literary landscape--a novel unforgettable and for
Beloved (1987) -- winner 1988
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this
spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and
as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and
escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too
many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things
happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died
nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.
Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is
a towering achievement.
Buy the movie (Oprah Winfrey): Video DVD
Tar Baby (1981)
The author of Song of Solomon now sets her
extraordinary novelistic powers on a striking new course. Tar Baby,
audacious and hypnotic, is masterful in its mingling of tones--of longing
and alarm, of urbanity and a primal, mythic force in which the landscape
itself becomes animate, alive with a wild, dark complicity in the fates of
the people whose drama unfolds. It is a novel suffused with a tense and
passionate inquiry, revealing a whole spectrum of emotions underlying the
relationships between black men and women, white men and women, and black
and white people.
The place is a Caribbean island. In their mansion overlooking the sea, the
cultivated millionaire Valerian Street, now retired, and his pretty, younger
wife, Margaret, go through rituals of living, as if in a trance. It is the
black servant couple, who have been with the Streets for years--the
fastidious butler, Sydney, and his strong yet remote wife--who have arranged
every detail of existence to create a surface calm broken only by sudden
bursts of verbal sparring between Valerian and his wife. And there is a
visitor among them--a beautiful young black woman, Jadine, who is not only
the servant's dazzling niece, but the protegée and friend of the Streets
themselves; Jadine, who has been educated at the Sorbonne at Valerian's
expense and is home now for a respite from her Paris world of fashion, film
Through a season of untroubled ease, the lives of these five move with a
ritualized grace until, one night, a ragged, starving black American street
man breaks into the house. And, in a single moment, with Valerian's perverse
decision not to call for help but instead to invite the man to sit with them
and eat, everything changes. Valerian moves toward a larger abdication.
Margaret's delicate and enduring deception is shattered. The butler and his
wife are forced into acknowledging their illusions. And Jadine, who at first
is repelled by the intruder, finds herself moving inexorably toward him--he
calls himself Son; he is a kind of black man she has dreaded since
childhood; uneducated, violent, contemptuous of her privilege.
As Jadine and Son come together in the loving collision they have both
welcomed and feared, the novel moves outward--to the Florida backwater town
Son was raised in, fled from, yet cherishes; to her sleek New York;
then back to the island people and their protective and entangling legends.
As the lovers strive to hold and understand each other, as they experience
the awful weight of the separate worlds that have formed them--she
perceiving his vision of reality and of love as inimical to her freedom, he
perceiving her as the classic lure, the tar baby set out to entrap him--all
the mysterious elements, all the highly charged threads of the story
converge. Everything that is at risk is made clear: how the conflicts and
dramas wrought by social and cultural circumstances must ultimately be
played out in the realm of the heart.
Once again, Toni Morrison has given us a novel of daring, fascination, and
Song of Solomon (1977) -- winner 1977
National Book Critics Circle Award; -- 1996
Oprah Book Club
Song of Solomon explores the quest for cultural identity
through an African American folktale about enslaved Africans who escape
slavery by fleeing back to Africa. The novel tells the story of Macon
"Milkman" Dead, a young man alienated from himself and estranged from his
family, his community, and his historical and cultural roots. Author Toni
Morrison, long renowned for her detailed imagery, visual language, and
"righting" of black history, guides the protagonist along a 30-year journey
that enables him to reconnect with his past and realize his self-worth.
Sula (1973) -- 2002
Oprah Book Club
Toni Morrison's first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), was
acclaimed as the work of an important talent, written--as John Leonard said
in The New York Times--in a prose "so precise, so faithful to speech and so
charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry."
Her new novel has the same power, the same beauty.
At its center--a friendship between two women, a friendship whose
intensity first sustains, then injures. Sula and Nel--both black, both
smart, both poor, raised in a small Ohio town--meet when they are twelve,
wishbone thin and dreaming of princes.
Through their girlhood years they share everything--perceptions,
judgments, yearnings, secrets, even crime--until Sula gets out, out of the
Bottom, the hilltop neighborhood where beneath the sporting life of the men
hanging around the place in headrags and soft felt hats there hides a fierce
resentment at failed crops, lost jobs, thieving insurance men, bug-ridden
flour...at the invisible line that cannot be overstepped.
Sula leaps it and roams the cities of America for ten years. Then she
returns to the town, to her friend. But Nel is a wife now, settled with her
man and her three children. She belongs. She accommodates to the Bottom,
where you avoid the hand of God by getting in it, by staying upright,
helping out at church suppers, asking after folks--where you deal with evil
by surviving it.
Not Sula. As willing to feel pain as to give pain, she can never
accommodate. Nel can't understand her any more, and the others never did.
Sula scares them. Mention her now, and they recall that she put her grandma
in an old folks' home (the old lady who let a train take her leg for the
insurance)...that a child drowned in the river years ago...that there was a
plague of robins when she first returned...
In clear, dark, resonant language, Toni Morrison brilliantly evokes not
only a bond between two lives, but the harsh, loveless, ultimately mad world
in which that bond is destroyed, the world of the Bottom and its people,
through forty years, up to the time of their bewildered realization that
even more than they feared Sula, their pariah, they needed her.
The Bluest Eye (1970) -- Winner of the 1993
Nobel Prize in Literature, 2000
Oprah Book Club
The first novel written by Toni Morrison,
It is the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove--a black girl in an
America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all
others--who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful,
so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This
is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning and the tragedy
of its fulfillment.
Remember: The Journey to School Integration (April 2004)
Toni Morrison has
collected a treasure chest of archival photographs that depict the
historical events surrounding school desegregation. These unforgettable
images serve as the inspiration for Ms. Morrison's text -- a fictional
account of the dialogue and emotions of the children who lived during the
era of "separate but equal" schooling. Remember is a unique pictorial and
narrative journey that introduces children to a watershed period in American
history and its relevance to us today. Remember will be published on the
50th anniversary of the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education Supreme
Court decision ending legal school segregation, handed down on May 17, 1954.
Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992)
My Book of Mean People Journal (2002) with Slade Morrison and Pascal Lemaitre (Illustrator)
Toni Morrison: Paradise/Beloved/Song of Solomon (1999)
Arguing Immigration: The Controversy and Crisis Over the Future of Immigration in America (1994)
Conversations With Toni Morrison (1994)
The Collected Novels of Toni Morrison (1994)
The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, and Jazz
Toni Morrison: Lecture and Speech of Acceptance
Upon the Award of the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature, Delivered in Stockholm on the Seventh of December,
- Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality
Race-ing Justice, En-Gendering Power (1992)
Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir
(1987), William Zinsser, ed.
Includes works by Alfred Kazin, Annie Dillard, Eileen Simpson, Ian Frazier,
Jr. Jill Ker Conway, Henry Louis Gates, Russell Baker, and Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison: Conversations
(2008 release) by Carolyn C. Denard
A Student's Guide to Toni Morrison
(2006) by Lisa A. Crayton
Toni Morrison (2006) by Richard
Toni Morrison (2005) by Corinne
J. Naden and Rose Blue
Toni Morrison (2005) by Galadriel
11 Eleven: Witnessing the World Trade Center 1974-2001
(2002) by Robert Pledge
Toni Morrison: A Beginner's Guide
(2002) Gina Wisker
Toni Morrison (2001) by Amy
Toni Morrison (2001) by Jean
Toni Morrison (2001) by Jean F.
Toni Morrison: Great American Writer
(2001) by Lisa Renee Rhodes
Toni Morrison: Magic of Words
(2001) by Jim Haskins
Quiet As It's Kept: Shame, Trauma, and Race in the Novels of Toni Morrison by J. Brooks Bouson (2000)
The Identifying Fictions of Toni Morrison: Modernist Authenticity and Postmodern Blackness (2000) by John
Prophets of Recognition: Ideology and the Individual in
Novels by Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow, and Eudora Welty
(1999) by Hulia Eichelberger
See also Eudora Welty,
Saul Bellow, Toni
James Baldwin (1998)
Collected Essays: Notes of a Native Son / Nobody Knows My Name / The Fire Next Time / No Name in the Street / The Devil Finds Work / Other Essays by James Baldwin - edited by Morrison
Sula (1998) by Anita Price Davis
MAX Notes literature guide.
Tar Baby (1998) by Ann Wilson
MAX Notes literature guide.
The House That Race Built (1998),
Wahneema Lubiano, ed.
Original essays by
Angela Y. Davis,
and others on black Americans and politics in America today.
Toni Morrison: Historical Perspectives and Literary Contexts (1998)
by Linden Peach
Toni Morrison is universally recognized for
reclaiming the occluded narratives of African-American history and the
Africanist presence in American national identity. This revised version of
Toni Morrison (Macmillan Modern Novelists, 1995) highlights the extent to
which her work invokes, often subversively, familiar African-American and
Euro-American verbal narratives and is engaged by the histories that are
obscured, distorted or occluded in them. Reviewing Morrison's career over
nearly thirty years, from The Bluest Eye to Paradise, this recently
revised study suggests that as her work has become more specifically
concerned with particular episodes or events in black history, it has also
become more involved in the complexities of historiography. In this new
edition, there is more emphasis upon critical debates that Morrison's
fiction has generated and the different theoretical approaches that may be
taken to her work.
Birth of a Nation'hood: Gaze, Script, and Spectacle in the O. J. Simpson Case
Co-edited and introduced by Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize in
Literature, Birth of a Nation'hood elucidates as never before the
grim miasma of the O. J. Simpson case,
which has elicited gargantuan fascination.
As they pertain to the scandal, the issues of race, sex, violence, money,
and the media are refracted through twelve powerful essays that have been
written especially for this book by distinguished intellectuals--black and
white, male and female. Together these keen analyses of a defining
American moment cast a chilling gaze on the script and spectacle of the
insidious tensions that rend our society, even as they ponder the proper
historical, cultural, political, legal, psychological, and linguistic
ramifications of the affair.
With contributions by: George Lipsitz, Leon Higginbotham, Jr., and Toni
Morrison with Aderson Bellegarde Francois and Linda Y. Yueh, Andrew Ross,
Ann duCille, Armond White, Claudia Brodsky Lacour, Ishmael Reed, Kimberlé
Williams Crenshaw, Leola Johnson and David Roediger, Nikol G. Alexander
and Drucilla Cornell, and Patricia J. Williams
Toni Morrison (1997) by Diane
Toni Morrison: Nobel Prize-Winning Author
(1996) by Barbara Kramer
Toni Morrison, Author (1995) by
Garnet N. Jackson
Beginning Biographies: American Women -- Toni Morrison (1994) by
Garnet Nelson Jackson
Conversations with Toni Morrison (1994) by Danille
Toni Morrison (1994) by Douglas Century
Toni Morrison: Critical Perspectives Past and Present (1993) by Henry L. Gates
Toni Morrison (1990) by Ellyn Sanna with Harold Bloom, ed.
United States Authors Series - Toni Morrison (1990) by Clenora
Hudson-Weems and Wilfred D. Samuels
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