Last fall semester, I took a special topics class called Toni Morrison. Before I took the class, I had no idea who Toni Morrison was. I decided to do a little bit of research on her and her novels before signing up for the class. Now that I’ve taken the class and read and analyzed five of her books, I am now a Toni Morrison fan.
All throughout middle and high school, I’ve read young adult and teen drama books. When I came across these Toni Morrison books, it was a little bit strange for me since I’m not used to her style of writing and the genre that she writes. The few books that I’ve read by her took place in the past, the earliest being around the 1920s and the latest being in the 1980s. I’m used to reading novels that take place in modern time, so that also took some getting used to.
Out of all of the books that I read during the semester, I have two personal favorites. The one that I loved, loved, LOVED the most is Song of Solomon. It’s about the life of Macon “Milkman” Dead; it starts from the moment that he was born up until his adulthood. Song of Solomon is a coming-of-age story as Milkman goes to great depths to discover his family’s origins.
What did I like about this novel? I enjoyed the mystery that was going on throughout. During the second half of the novel was when Milkman tried to learn more about his family and where they came from. I was just as curious to learn about Milkman’s family as he was. I had to keep reading because I wanted to know what was going to happen. The names throughout the novels were interesting, which was something that I looked more into in the class that I took. The names in the novel are a bit unusual (unusual names are pretty common in Morrison’s novels, I’ve noticed). Names like Milkman, Guitar, Macan, First Corinthians, Pilate, etc. are memorable and also fitting for their characters.
The only thing that I didn’t like about Song of Solomon was that it was hard for me as a reader to keep up with so many characters. As we learn more about Milkman’s relatives, we get so many new names that it became overwhelming for me and I eventually began to forget who was who. It’s a great thing that my professor drew out a family tree during class because I would have been lost. Other than that, Song of Solomon is my favorite book from Toni Morrison so far.
My second favorite book from Toni Morrison is The Bluest Eye. It’s Toni Morrison’s first novel, and also the first novel that we read for the class. This novel follows two different families, the Breedloves and the Mac Teers. The main focus of the story is Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl who wishes that she could be beautiful by having blue eyes. She has a complicated family life because her parents are emotionally abusive and her father has a terrible drinking problem.
Why did I like this novel? It was so intense! I felt so bad for Pecola and related to her in some ways. She believes that she is ugly, and her parents and classmates reinforce her beliefs by teasing her and calling her ugly. I also liked how we get a chapter dedicated to each Breedlove. There’s a Dick and Jane reader at the beginning of the novel and each chapter title about the Breedloves is a snippet from the Dick and Jane reader. The snippets are hints about who the chapter will be about. For example, the “See Mother” piece was about Pauline, Pecola’s mother. The “See Father” piece will be about Cholly, Pecola’s father. There’s also a piece about the house, a cat, a dog, and the friend. I thought that was clever of Morrison to use the Dick and Jane reader to describe the Breedlove family.
One thing that I did not really like about the novel was that I went in expecting it to be all about Pecola since she was mentioned in the summary. It confused me that another character Claudia was the narrator in parts of the story. Honestly, I was more interested in Pecola and her parts in the story than Claudia and her parts. It could have been because I wasn’t used to reading novels like that. Other than that, I enjoyed reading The Bluest Eye.
I couldn’t get into the other books that I read for my class, which included Sula, Tar Baby, and Jazz. They weren’t terrible books, but they did not keep my attention like Song of Solomon and The Bluest Eye did. I bought God Help the Child for that class, but Hurricane Irma caused the campus to close for a week. As a result, the professor had to take away one of the readings, which was that one. Since I still have the book, I’m looking forward to reading it when I eventually tackle my “to read” book pile. My boyfriend also gave me his copy of Beloved, which I’ll have to read, too. Reading will definitely be something I’ll be doing a lot of over the summer.