A decade and a half ago, when I decided on a whim to get a Masters in Afro American Literature at UW-Madison, I decided to write my thesis on Toni Morrison’s work. I’d first come to Morrison’s novels when I lived in Chattanooga, TN and was a student at UT-Chattanooga. A new bookstore had just opened, creating a space for used books, used cds/cassettes/albums and video-games. On my first visit to this store, I was completely overwhelmed at the sheer numbers of books. So, to mitigate my pressing sense of claustrophobia, I decided to focus on book spines. My eyes landed on The Bluest Eye & I was intrigued. What is this story about one eye? Is it a murder mystery? A detective story? Who is this Toni Morrison?
I was perhaps 21 or 22, maybe 23, and I’d never heard of Toni Morrison. In fact, I had never really heard of any living Black writers or many non-living Black writers. I pulled the book from the shelf, studied the cover, and put it back, moving on until I hit the “B” section and found a new intriguing title, If Beale Street Could Talk. I didn’t know who James Baldwin was but I recalled a movie I’d seen, “The Women of Brewster Place”, and, confusing these two titles, purchased the book. Home, I couldn’t get the Morrison title out of my head or the odd cover, but Baldwin’s novel enticed me, so I spent the summer reading all of the novels of his that I could find at the used bookstore. And when I was done reading Baldwin, I was still haunted by that Morrison title. I raced back to the bookstore in search of The Bluest Eye. Read More »“I want to feel what I feel”: on Toni Morrison’s work