Toni Morrison, born as Chloe Anthony Wofford, was born on the 18th of February, in Lorain, Ohio. Toni was an American writer known primarily for her analysis of black experience – namely of black females – within the black community. For her literary efforts and writing prowess, Morrison received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.
Morrison was born into a family that expressed great love and admiration for black culture. Toni grew up in the American Midwest, where folktales, songs and stories comprised of a very important part of her development.
She received her Bachelor’s degree at the Howard University, and her Master’s at Cornell University. Morrison spent two years teaching at the Texas Southern University, then at Howard for eight years.
In 1965, Random House offered Toni the opportunity to work as a fiction editor, which she accepted and worked with them for a sizeable amount of years. In 1984, she took up teaching once more, this time at the State University of New York at Albany. Morrison left once more, in 1989, and joined the faculty of Princeton University, retiring in 2006.
Toni Morrison died on the 5th of August, 2019, aged 86. The writings of Toni have acted as a beacon of hope to people over the world, and the least we can do is celebrate her life’s work as we enumerate and expound upon Toni Morrison’s best books.
Beloved is the most widely known book by Ms. Morison. It is also her most widely adored, even though her later efforts have proven to be more, in a word, punchy. Regardless, Beloved’ stands as a diamond of a book.
While there are a multitude of voices and separate stories in the book, the most important one is that of Sethe. Sethe is a woman in her thirties, living in an Ohio farmhouse with daughter Denver, and mother- in-law Baby Suggs.
Beloved’ starts out with the end of the Civil War, during the Reconstruction. During the Reconstruction, as Morrison paints us this picture with vivid descriptions, there was a concerning amount of arbitrary cruelty against black people. Those freed by the emancipation and those that bought their freedom, alike, were subject to derisive, violent behavior.
Morrison draws parallels between the period when slavery was an ongoing worry in the South, and during the length of the novel.
It isn’t easy to talk about Beloved without going into the details. For instance, we can’t speak about the novel without mentioning the ghost story. The ghost is the dead child of Sethe, a baby girl that had her throat cut when only two. We don’t learn the child’s name, but we find out that she is, in fact, the titular character – Beloved.
The moral of Beloved is that in a world where people can be bought with money, everything has its own price tag, and that price can be a costly one.
The Bluest Eye
The Bluest Eye isn’t just an ordinary story where x, y and z happen, but a heartfelt poem that stands against beauty. It attempts, and succeeds with flying colors, to go against standards of beauty – and it views beauty as an obsession that persists throughout all of history.
The book is set in the 1940s, but even so, it remains as relevant today as it was back then. Genuinely the most special novel that Toni has written.
The protagonist of the story, Pecola Breedlove, has a terrible desire to have the bluest of blue eyes. Pecola recognizes that there is a certain standard of beauty that she just cannot surmount, and this is where her inflexible yearning for blue eyes comes from.
Throughout the story, we’re made to see that Pecola doesn’t have even a single part of herself that is genuinely ugly; the thing is that she just doesn’t fit the present standards. The reader finds himself stumped while contemplating what even is ugly and why is it that a is ugly, while b is attractive.
No reader will be left, post-reading, without a heavy cloud hanging above their head. The manner by which society operates is a confusing one, and this novel highlights the failed attempts at intricacy that we all adhere to.
Song of Solomon
Toni’s Song of Solomon was published in 1977. It was loved back then just as much as it is today. Situated in an unknown, or more closely, an irrelevant town in Michigan, the novel has its story uncoil. There are brutally cruel deaths, stories of slavery, even lost, buried treasure.
The story progresses towards Pennsylvania, where the grandfather of main character Milkman had lost his life, and then to Shalimar in Virginia. Shalimar is regarded as the unambiguous home of his slave- ancestors.
Milkman is a character that grows; from going against his own origins, to embracing them and finally being one with them.
The way that the story is told by Morrison is odd, to say the least, but it is a model that works brilliantly with this tale. Morrison has said that the way she wrote Song of Solomon helped her step away from the most common ways of storytelling. The style would later be perfected for future novels, for example Beloved.
The book is filled with characters, there is a complicated literary surface and a lyrical style of writing that moves in tune with the rhythm of African songs.
Only a light 174 pages, the second book published by Morrison, Sula’ is by no means a light read. The disparity between the size of the book and the scope of the material explored helps the novel in more ways than one.
The story is set in Ohio, in a small community named The Bottom, sitting in the hills, separated from the white people in the city of Medallion.
Character Shadrack is featured prominently; he fights during the first World War, losing a bit of his sanity, then returns to The Bottom with the bright idea of having a holiday-like ‘suicide day’ so as to give people a bit of certainty in dying – it is obvious from this that the characters, and by extension the story, is a very complex one.
The protagonist of the story isn’t even present for the greater portion of the first half. It is these small things that Morrison uses occasionally that make the story all the more interesting and add to the reader’s experience.
The themes explored in other books by Morrison are mentioned here, too. For example, Sula bears a certain straightforward attitude about herself – she has a disdain for social standards and conventions, and even attacks them.
The mystique that surrounds the story is one that is best explored alone and we encourage all readers to take up one of Toni Morrison’s best books, Sula.
There is a peculiar idea in the story where the citizens want to make an ‘all black town’: the irony enters when they, themselves, become the oppressive force in the story.
The tale starts out with a scene playing out: a former convent, where women that have fled their cruel, violent husbands or unfavorable pasts now live, is attacked by a group of some nine men. Though this may seem a simplistic start, we assure you that it is not.
The mastery with which the individual tales of the women intertwine and develop is a marked one. The reader is delivered a small challenge to complete the stories by way of piecing the fragmentary stories.
The story has a lot to say about the violence that man exudes. The black slaves, after having been freed, act in the same way that their oppressors once did. It is this irony of man that Toni reveals in this infallibly written, scarring, yet beautiful story.
Toni Morrison is the author of many wonderful, striking novels. The interested reader will find that her other stories, namely Jazz, God Help the Child and Tar Baby are great reads, also.