Several years ago, I watched Toni Morrison on HBO’s The Blacklist, which featured groundbreaking and influential African-Americans recounting their experiences in the world. I remember (because I wrote them down), her words then:
“Writing is the only free place; it’s the only place where I’m not doing what somebody else wants or asks or needs. Writing is mine. So [after] winning the Nobel Prize, suddenly I’m in a different league – not just out there in the world but in my head. That sort of rivalry with oneself – that is not self-generated but generated outside. The necessity [is] for me to make sure my work [is] not somebody else’s version of what I should be writing about.
You know perfectly well that you’re pulling from the rest of the world of books. But what you want to make is this one little place, like the facet of a diamond. Just one little shape. And that’s where you live, and that’s yours.”
With her latest offering, Morrison polishes that diamond to a high shine and holds it up for her audience to admire.
At a narrow 150 or so pages, readers may be deceived into believing the Nobel Prize winner’s latest is an easy read. But the story of Frank Money – a young Korean war veteran who returns to his rural home in order to rescue his younger sister – grips you from its opening pages to the conclusion.
Frank’s odyssey – in which he saves his sister while saving his own war-ravaged self – addresses what NPR describes as the “sickening abominations routinely inflicted on African-Americans: unsafe medical experiments, exclusion from public restrooms, [and] forced gladiatorlike knife fights for the amusement of betting spectators.”
Morrison pulls no punches, and her beautiful, lyrical prose cast a spell over me. I could not put this book down.
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