Thursday, August 24, 2017

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni Morrison won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize and is well worth reading. I listened to the audio version read by the author. She has a wonderful reading voice, but I found myself stymied by the storyline at first.

Luckily for me, famous books are generally on, and so I went and read about the plot of the first three chapter, and then started the recording over from the beginning, and I was hooked. I struggled again at chapter 23 which is told in stream of consciousness, which is my least favorite type of storytelling. Once again, Sparknotes came to my rescue and helped me see that this chapter was much more than repetition and weirdness. It can be seen as the thought process of a slave during the middle passage in the hold of a slave ship.

The story begins with Sethe (the mother and former slave), Denver (the living daughter born when Sethe was on the run), Baby Suggs (Denver's paternal grandmother), Paul D (a former slave from Sweet Home), and an angry ghost of Sethe's murdered baby.

Baby Suggs' son, Halle purchased her freedom from his kindly master, but after the master dies, his wicked brother and nephews take over his slaves and life becomes unbearable for Halle, Sethe, and the other slaves living at Sweet Home. They decide to make a run for freedom, but their attempt doesn't end up turning out well.

Toni Morrison goes deep with this story. She will make you think, make you question, make you reevaluate everything you thought you knew about yourself and other people. I love this book for all of those reasons. I felt like I was learning, almost as if I was back in school. I can't stop thinking about the characters, their thought processes, and the role slavery has played in the dynamic of our country and the formation of our families. If we don't think about these things, we may continue to misjudge and get things wrong for another 200 years.

I loved how Morrison incorporated identity and the perceived value of each person into this narrative. She shows the long term damage of slavery and how it can take generations to recover from that damage. I found this book to be a literary masterpiece.

The next paragraph contains some slight spoilers. Proceed with caution if you don't like spoilers.

This book left me with questions that aren't answered, which in turn makes me continue to think. I want to know where Beloved went. I want to know what happened to her baby or if there even was a real baby. I loved that it took the community to set things right for Sethe and Denver, as I think that is what it will take to heal the wounds of our conflicted history - a community coming together and recognizing their shared blame in the narrative. Each of us is connected to those around us, and we need each other. I liked how Morrison showed that by our inaction we can also be guilty for failing to protect and shelter. Inaction is also a choice and has consequences. I loved the intergenerational aspects of this story that left me wondering if Beloved was Sethe's daughter or her mother. I also loved the dimensions of Sethe's character, how she struggled because the loss of her own mother and the fear of seeing her own daughters in slavery. I was saddened that her son's never returned and this reminded me of Gaine's A Lesson Before Dying where he tells of the males of Black families leaving.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. We also love gently used books if you would like to donate books from your own child's library. We are currently in need of books as there has been a baby boom in the NICU. 

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