Rating: 4 out of 4 stars
Author: Toni Morrison
This rich and moving novel traces the lives of two black heroines from their growing up together in a small Ohio town, through their sharply divergent paths of womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and conciliation. The one, Nel Wright, chooses to stay in the place of her birth, to marry, to raise a family, to become a pillar of the tightly knit black community. The other, Sula Peace, rejects all that Nel has accepted. She escapes to college, submerges herself in city life, and when she returns to her roots, it is as a rebel, a mocker, a wanton sexual seductress. Both women must suffer the consequences of their choices. Both combine to create an unforgettable rendering of what it means and costs to exist and survive as a black woman in America.
As always, Toni Morrison delivers. Of the books I have read by her so far, I have found this one to be the most telling, particularly n the subject of black women in this country. There is currently a large movement amongst minority women calling for feminist to acknowledge that the struggles of a white women are different to that of minority women. Morrison’s story follows the lives of 2 black women Nel and Sula. The story truly highlights the struggle of black women from the early 1900’s – 1965. While many things have changed since then, there are still plenty of things that are applicable to our currently society, making Morrison’s work relevant as ever.
The first thing that I began to notice was the lack of men. They were all known for leaving the women and children, something that is still highly prevalent in the black community. Morrison set out to show how the women picked up the pieces and maintained the household. Now, I am not saying this only happens in the black community, but that it is very common for the black children to be raised primarily by mothers or grandmothers. Morrison highlights a reality and how the black women have coped.
While not a primary focus, Morrison also address race relations and what it was like to be black prior to the civil rights movement and even today. The blacks in her story were often exposed to humiliation and unfair treatment. The men were passed up for job opportunities based on their color. This humiliation and degrade even fed into the black community. Nel, with less “mixed” features like her mother was forced to pull and pinch her nose. Her mother hoped to give her a “nice” white nose like hers rather than the wider set common amongst blacks.
Out of everything, Sula became the highlight of the story. People of the small town both feared and hated her for her behavior. Initially, even I was a bit disgusted with her, but towards the end truly saw Morrison’s point in her character. Living the life of a black woman was hard and rather than giving up her life to a man or white society to judge her, Sula chose to live life on her terms. She continuously proclaimed that the life was her and only hers. While it was lonely, I could understand her desire to live life on her terms. She found more joy in that fact then anything else.
If needed, I could go on and on about Morrison’s work forever. All I can say is I would recommend this book. I am on a mission to read all of her work. While race is a very touchy subject, there are stories like Sula that highlight the big issues in our society and a large part of American history that are important to our society. If you have read any Morrison’s work I would recommend you do so.