Tag: Toni Morrison

Top Ten Tuesday: The Ten Best Books I’ve Read So Far This Year

Posted 15 May, 2012 by Heather in Blogs, Top Ten Tuesday / 30 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday was originally supposed to be “Top Ten Authors I’d Like To See On A Reality Show,” but then some feedback about its difficulty made Jamie give us a Freebie Week, as well. Thank goodness, because–and I’m in no way judging anyone who enjoys them–I can’t stand those reality shows and I would be mortified to see any of my favorite authors participating in them (not only because some of them are dead). Just thinking about it makes me shudder.

So, since today is also a freebie, I thought I’d look back over all the books I’ve read so far this year and give props to my ten favorites. They are listed in the order I read them, and clicking on a linked book title will take you to my review of that book.

My favorite books so far this year:

  1. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  2. The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson
  3. The Bee-Loud Glade, by Steve Himmer
  4. The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
  5. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard (review to come) — If you love Thoreau’s Walden, you’ll love Dillard’s Pilgrim. If you aren’t crazy about Walden (or if you’ve never read it), but enjoy nature writing, you’ll still love Pilgrim.
  6. In One Person, by John Irving
  7. House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski (review to come) — Super creepy. One of a kind. I’m having a hard time deciding how I’d like to review this one, but don’t take my silence as a bad thing. This book is excellent. Did I mention that it’s creepy?
  8. 11/22/63, by Stephen King (review to come) — I enjoy Stephen King’s science fiction/fantasy novels much more than his straight-up horror novels, and 11/22/63 is really good. In fact, I think I like this better than Under the Dome.
  9. All of Toni Morrison’s fictionThe Cambridge Companion to Toni Morrison — I know this is cheating, but I recently finished re-reading all of Toni Morrison’s fiction in anticipation of her new novel that was just published on May 8th, and I couldn’t leave any of those books off this list. Her new novel, Home, is also great. I will be writing up something about The Cambridge Companion sometime soon, but for now I will just say that if you love Toni Morrison, the companion is a must-have. It’s fantastic.
  10. Lizz Free or Die, by Lizz Winstead

If you had to list your favorites so far this year, what would your list look like? Share your favorites in a comment–I’d love to hear about them!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten of My Favorite Quotes From Toni Morrison

Posted 8 May, 2012 by Heather in Blogs, Top Ten Tuesday / 10 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

It has been a long time since I’ve participated in Top Ten Tuesday, but this week’s prompt is right up my alley. This week, The Broke and the Bookish want to know what everyone’s top ten favorite book quotes are.

Now, I have done a lot of reading over the last thirty-five years or so, and I have eleventy-thousand favorite quotes from the books I’ve read. I haven’t kept those quotes all together in one organized place, either; they’re written in different notebooks, underlined in the books themselves, written on various index cards (that are scattered all over who-knows-where), and typed up in different apps on my cell phone and iPod.

Problem: How am I going to decide which ten quotes to post for Top Ten Tuesday?

Solution: As you may or may not know, today was the first ever Riot Reading Day at Book Riot, and they dubbed it Toni Morrison Day in honor of today’s release of Morrison’s latest book, Home. Rebecca (aka The Book Lady) had the great idea of posting what she considers “The 20 Best Lines in Toni Morrison,” and I thought I would post my favorites here for Top Ten Tuesday. Toni Morrison has published ten works of fiction including today’s release, so that means I can pick one (only one???) quote from each of her ten books to share with you.

Here are ten of my favorite quotes/passages from Toni Morrison’s fiction:

The Bluest EyeThe Bluest Eye (1970):
“Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another–physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion. In equating physical beauty with virtue, she stripped her mind, bound it, and collected self-contempt by the heap.”

SulaSula (1974):
“‘I didn’t even know his name. And if I didn’t know his name, then there is nothing I did know and I have known nothing ever at all since the one thing I wanted was to know his name so how could he help but leave me since he was making love to a woman who didn’t even know his name.

When I was a little girl the heads of my paper dolls came off, and it was a long time before I discovered that my own head would not fall off if I bent my neck. I used to walk around holding it very stiff because I thought a strong wind or a heavy push would snap my neck. Nel was the one who told me the truth. But she was wrong. I did not hold my head stiff enough when I met him and so I lost it just like the dolls.'”

Song of SolomonSong of Solomon (1977):
“‘Too much tail. All that jewelry weighs it down. Like vanity. Can’t nobody fly with all that shit. Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.'”

Tar BabyTar Baby (1981):
“That was the sole lesson of their world: how to make waste, how to make machines that made more waste, how to make wasteful products, how to talk waste, how to study waste, how to design waste, how to cure people who were sickened by waste so they could be well enough to endure it, how to mobilize waste, legalize waste and how to despise the culture that lived in cloth houses and shit on the ground far away from where they ate. And it would drown them one day, they would all sink into their own waste and the waste they had made of the world and then, finally they would know true peace and the happiness they had been looking for all along.”

BelovedBeloved (1987):
“Whitepeople believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. In a way, he thought, they were right. The more coloredpeople spent their strength trying to convince them how gentle they were, how clever and loving, how human, the more they used themselves up to persuade whites of something Negroes believed could not be questioned, the deeper and more tangled the jungle grew inside. But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them to this place from the other (livable) place. It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread. In, through and after life, it spread, until it invaded the whites who had made it. Touched them every one. Changed and altered them. Made them bloody, silly, worse than even they wanted to be, so scared were they of the jungle they had made. The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own.”

JazzJazz (1992):
“Pain. I seem to have an affection, a kind of sweettooth for it. Bolts of lightning, little rivulets of thunder. And I the eye of the storm. Mourning the split trees, hens starving on the rooftops. Figuring out what can be done to save them since they cannot save themselves without me because–well, it’s my storm, isn’t it? I break lives to prove I can mend them back again. And although the pain is theirs, I share it, don’t I? Of course. Of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But it is another way. I am uneasy now. Feeling a bit false. What, I wonder, what would I be without a few brilliant spots of blood to ponder? Without aching words that set, then miss the mark?

I ought to get out of this place. Avoid the window, leave the hole I cut through the door to get in lives instead of having one of my own. It was loving the City that distracted me and gave me ideas. Made me think I could speak its loud voice and make that sound sound human. I missed the people altogether.”

ParadiseParadise (1997):
“She was back in that place where final wars are waged, the organized trenches of high school, where shame is the plate-shifting time it takes to walk down the hall, failure is a fumble with the combination lock and loathing is a condom wafer clogging a fountain. Where aside from the exchange of clothes and toys, there are no good intentions. Where smugness reigns, judgments instant, dismissals permanent. And the adults haven’t a clue. Only prison could be as blatant and as frightening, for beneath its rules and rituals scratched a life of gnawing violence. Those who came from peaceful well-regulated homes were overtaken by a cruelty that visited them as soon as they entered the gates. Cruelty decked out in juvenile glee.”

LoveLove (2003):
“The ocean is my man now. He knows when to rear and hump his back, when to be quiet and simply watch a woman. He can be devious, but he’s not a false-hearted man. His soul is deep down there and suffering. I pay attention and know all about him.
I watch my man from the porch. In the evening mostly, but sunrise too, when I need to see his shoulders collared with seafoam. There use to be white wicker chairs out here where pretty women drank iced tea with a drop of Jack Daniel’s or Cutty Sark in it. Nothing left now, so I sit on the steps or lean my elbows on the railings. If I’m real still and listening carefully I can hear his voice. You’d think with all that strength, he’d be a bass. But, no. My man is a tenor.”

A MercyA Mercy (2008):
“It was not a miracle. Bestowed by God. It was a mercy. Offered by a human. I stayed on my knees. In the dust where my heart will remain each night and every day until you understand what I know and long to tell you: to be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing.”

HomeHome (2012):
“‘See what I mean? Look to yourself. You free. Nothing and nobody is obliged to save you but you. Seed your own land. You young and a woman and there’s serious limitation in both, but you a person too. Don’t let Lenore or some trifling boyfriend and certainly no devil doctor decide who you are. That’s slavery. Somewhere inside you is that free person I’m talking about. Locate her and let her do some good in the world.'”

Happy Toni Morrison Day, everyone!

Toni Morrison Day 2012

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A Toni Morrison Marathon: Join Me!

Posted 21 February, 2012 by Heather in Blogs, Read-Alongs / 4 Comments

Toni Morrison

photo: Ron Brown Scholar Program website

So. Let’s talk about Toni Morrison for a moment, shall we? Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison has a new novel coming out in May, which I reviewed here yesterday. In honor of Morrison’s forthcoming novel, the good folks at Book Riot have declared May 8th “Toni Morrison Day,” and they have a bunch of great stuff planned for their site leading up to this new reading holiday. To prepare for Toni Morrison Day, Rebecca of The Book Lady’s Blog–and Associate Editor/Community Manager of Book Riot–is re-reading Morrison’s entire backlist of fiction and has asked interested readers to join her. How could I resist? I love Toni Morrison–she’s one of my favorite authors, and, truth be told, she’s one of my favorite people in the public sphere. She’s an amazing writer and an amazing person.

Here is the list of Morrison’s novels that we’ll be reading between now and May 8th:

  • The Bluest Eye (1970)
  • Sula (1974)
  • Song of Solomon (1977)
  • Tar Baby (1981)
  • Beloved (1987)
  • Jazz (1992)
  • Paradise (1997)
  • Love (2003)
  • A Mercy (2008)

Then on May 8th, we’ll be reading Toni Morrison’s new novel, Home. I am really excited about this Morrison marathon–I had already intended to re-read The Bluest Eye this year, and it will be interesting to read her books in the order that they were written.

What do you say, friends? Will you join us? There are a bunch of people whom I’d like to see read along with us (I’m looking at you @Anti_Intellect, @mssarahbellum, and @SunsetSoFresh), and there is no set schedule for the reading–read at your own pace and just enjoy Morrison’s beautiful writing. That’s what it’s all about.

Happy Reading!

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Book Review: Home by Toni Morrison

Posted 20 February, 2012 by Heather in Book Reviews, Fiction / 12 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Home by Toni MorrisonHome by Toni Morrison
Published by Knopf on May 8, 2012
Genres: Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 160
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon

An angry and self-loathing veteran of the Korean War, Frank Money finds himself back in racist America after enduring trauma on the front lines that left him with more than just physical scars. His home--and himself in it--may no longer be as he remembers it, but Frank is shocked out of his crippling apathy by the need to rescue his medically abused younger sister and take her back to the small Georgia town they come from, which he's hated all his life. As Frank revisits the memories from childhood and the war that leave him questioning his sense of self, he discovers a profound courage he thought he could never possess again. A deeply moving novel about an apparently defeated man finding his manhood--and his home.

(from the publisher's website)

Toni Morrison’s much-anticipated new novel takes place in the 1950s and deals with the themes of racism; war and its effects on those involved; eugenics and the medical abuse of black women; family; friendship; and honor. Home embodies everything we have come to expect from this Nobel Prize winning author–beautiful writing, tough subjects, realistic characters, and lots of soul-searching.

The story begins with a childhood memory of Frank and his sister, Cee, and that memory–among others–will come back to haunt Frank throughout the book. He and his sister have gone to check out the horses in a field near their home in Lotus, Georgia, but end up witnessing a group of white men secretly burying a black man (who seems to still be alive, although barely). Both children are terrified by what they see, but Frank is the self-proclaimed protector of his younger sister, so he does his best to remain strong and keep her calm. They don’t know who the man was, and they don’t try to find out…

Years later, that need to protect his sister is what will ultimately bring Frank back to Lotus, Georgia–the place that he and his friends hated enough to risk their lives to leave by joining the military and going to war.

Leaving Georgia didn’t bring Frank the contentment or happiness he was looking for, though–instead it got him sent to Korea where he would see and do things that would hurt him, both emotionally and psychologically. Although he put his life on the line to serve his country in the military, when he gets back to the states he discovers that he still has to put up with the same racism and poor treatment that he experienced as a civilian, in addition to his own anger and self-hatred. As the events of Frank’s and Cee’s stories unfold, and as Frank deals with his personal demons, he begins to realize that the very place he sought to escape as a young man–his home town  in Georgia–is the one place where there is a community of people who are willing to look out for one another and take care of one another. For all its faults, that small town in Georgia ends up proving to Frank that it can save him and his sister, and make him feel at home. Frank is a broken man who has been looking for acceptance, redemption, and contentment in all the wrong places, but it is in Lotus, Georgia, that Frank will finally redeem himself and begin to heal.

I have been looking forward to a new Toni Morrison novel for almost four years now, and Home embodies everything I’ve come to know and love about Morrison and her writing–it deals with epic themes and has a great storyline; Frank is a complex and sympathetic protagonist; and Morrison’s writing is wonderful, as always. At 160 pages, I just wish it had been longer–I read it in less than a day and it ended much too soon. If you’re already a fan of Toni Morrison, I have no doubt that you’ll love this book; if you haven’t read anything by Toni Morrison before, what are you waiting for? I recommend Home to anyone who likes reading good literary fiction and/or to anyone who is interested in learning more about the themes discussed in the book.

I can’t wait until its release in May so that we can discuss it together!



Friday’s Five Books: Imagine new possibilities with recommendations from @Anti_Intellect…

Posted 5 August, 2011 by Heather in Blogs, Friday's Five Books / 1 Comment

Friday's Five Books*Friday’s Five Books is a bi-weekly post on Between the Covers that highlights book recommendations from the reading community.

Who is @Anti_Intellect?  He’s Black.  He’s gay.  He’s an atheist.  He’s a feminist.  And he is deeply committed to educating for critical consciousness.  He is a graduate of Florida A&M University, and may be best known on Twitter as the guy who floods timelines with quotes by Toni Morrison and bell hooks.  In his real life he is a professional educator, but he also makes sure to share his love of learning with people on social media who may not otherwise come into contact with the work of visionary intellectuals.  His journey to feminism and atheism has been illuminated by the works of Black woman writers, and he intends to share their vision with as many people as possible.  @Anti_Intellect can be reached on Twitter or his blog http://antiintellect.wordpress.com.

I jumped at the opportunity to recommend books that have been integral to me developing my critical voice, and the books that I will be recommending below have all challenged me to imagine new possibilities.  It is because of these books that I am deeply committed to moving us all towards greater love and greater understanding.

Jonah's Gourd VineJonah’s Gourd Vine — Initially I wanted to put Their Eyes Were Watching God on the list, but I see that someone already recommended it, and it is the more popular of the novels written by Hurston.  Jonah’s Gourd Vine sort of leapt out to me one day when I was browsing through my university’s book store.  I really didn’t know what to expect from the book, but I trusted Hurston, and I was rewarded greatly for daring to go inside her imagination.  The novel is set in Florida, and follows the life of John Pearson.  All of Hurston’s gifts for language are present in this book, and what makes the book so rewarding is the insight that she offers on race, gender, and religion in the Black community.  The book turns many traditional narratives on the head, and challenges us to truly think about the diversity of the Black community.  What happens when voodoo meets organized religion?  What happens when hypocrisy comes home to rest in the Black community?  How can one be of faith, and of the world?  These are all questions beautifully posed by Zora Neale Hurston in this beautifully written novel.

The Bluest EyeThe Bluest Eye — I regard this book the way many people regard The Bible.  This is the most important book that I have ever read, and words cannot express how much it means to me, and how much it has shaped my critical voice.  Toni Morrison blasts through race, gender, class, and sexual violence in her first novel about a Black girl who becomes a casualty of a White Supremacist culture, one where both White and Black are complicit in its maintenance.  I truly do not know where my life would be if I had never met Pecola Breedlove, and if I had never rescued the Pecola Breedlove in myself.  Anyone can identify with this book, but it will hold a special place in the hearts and minds of those who are marginalized by society.  The characters in this novel are truly memorable, and I don’t think anyone has ever written prostitutes in a more honest light.  What does it mean to lose ourselves in the process of becoming what the dominant society considers normal?  This is the question that Toni Morrison asks readers to grapple with as they enter into the world that has driven one of the most vulnerable amongst, mad.

The Will to ChangeThe Will to Change — It is important for us to recognize oppression as not only individual acts, but as a social and political system as well.  bell hooks commands readers to name and recognize patriarchy, the social and political system of male dominance that poisons all of our lives.  This is a book that challenges us to resist sexism and sexist domination, and it makes a great case for doing just that.  Throughout the book bell hooks illustrates the way that patriarchy infects all of our lives, and spares none.  It is important that we understand the way patriarchy informs the way we look at sex, parenting, work, family, and almost everything else in our lives.  In a time when race is no longer taken for granted, many people still take gender for granted, but this book will certainly put an end to that.  I doubt that anyone will walk away from this book taking gender for granted.

Letters to a Young PoetLetters to a Young Poet — Fans of the film Sister Act II will remember this title as the book Sister Mary gives to young Rita.  The title of the book always resonated with me as a young boy, but it wouldn’t be until my 20’s that I actually gave the book a read.  The book is comprised of letters that Rainer Maria Rilke wrote to a young poet.  This is an excellent book for anyone with a creative mind, and a vivid imagination.  This book is filled with page after page of wisdom to those who create, and one can really feel the warmth of Rainer Maria Rilke emanating from the pages.  While the book is directed towards young poets, I strongly recommend it for anyone that works in a creative nature.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceHarry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceJ. K. Rowling is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and I think her work doesn’t get enough credit for being the groundbreaking project that it is.  Here is a series that extends over seven books, and gets progressively better with each title.  Half-Blood Prince is the 6th book in the series, and it remains my favorite.  This book takes us into the antagonist’s past like none of the books before it, and it is a truly beautiful journey.


Thank you so much for contributing to Friday’s Five Books and giving us these great recommendations, @Anti-Intellect.

**If you choose to purchase any of these titles using the links below, I will receive a small percentage of the sale (to be used toward site maintenance and buying more books).

Amazon | Powell’s Books

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