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Morrison, Toni

black history ohio beloved

(US, 1931– )

Toni Morrison was born in Ohio of working-class parents. Her novels are set in African-American communities, and she has explored both their sustaining and their self-destructive qualities. In her first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), we see the impact of cultural icons (a blonde doll, Shirley Temple) from a black child's perspective, and explore the close correlation between images of beauty and power. Sula (1973) describes the friendship of two black women growing up in Ohio in the 1920s. Taken as a whole, Morrison's work redefines the history of black women in America, and her literary style is the perfect vehicle for this. Vernacular and lyrical, interweaving folk memory and community life, it combines an awareess of the minutiae of daily life with the broad span of history. The best novel to start with is Beloved (1987; Pulitzer Prize 1988). Set in Ohio in the post-Civil War period, this focuses on Sethe, a slave who kills her baby to save her from slavery. At first the baby haunts the house and then comes back as the young woman, Beloved, who wants stories and love. Morrison delivers this Gothic history in a blend of poetry and horror that slowly reveals the traumatic processes by which memory is recovered. Beloved is the first of a trilogy that includes Jazz (1991) and Paradise (1998). Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.

Alice Walker, Pat Barker, William Faulkner, James Baldwin. See BLACK & WHITE, HISTORICAL, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA  LM

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