A Soundtrack for Beloved

Beloved By Toni Morrison

Beloved By Toni Morrison

I’ve been reading Beloved, which is my third Morrison book in a year.  I’m mildly obsessed, if by mildly you mean I have a purple marker on the ready for every awkward star I need to draw in the margins.  Plus, during the Halloween / Day of the Dead / All Souls Day time of the year, a good ghost story always comes in handy, even if it is incredibly sad.  Actually, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward reminds me a lot of Beloved.  Both books lead the reader slowly into high tension, like a pot boiling water for tea.  Before you know it, you’re in the dense heat waiting for the quake.  I haven’t hit the quake yet in Beloved, but Sethe does know what’s going on and Paul D has returned to whatever vagabond life he led pre-Sethe.

In studying lyrics with my AP Literature class, I’ve thought a lot about Bob Dylan’s recent Nobel Prize in Literature award (of which he was silent about for days and then came out like a young crowned prince in a rare interview).  I think lyrics are really accessible for students in this generation, but I think anytime we read something that’s so moving we can’t really put it into words, it deserves a soundtrack. Thus, the Beloved soundtrack, as best I can do.

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President Obama's Playlists

President Obama’s Playlists

In creating this post, I discovered that President Obama makes Spotify playlists. The last three songs are definitely after a few rounds of listening to his playlists.  With the upcoming election results coming in just four short days (with an extra hour for daylights savings), it’s interesting to look at the emotional state of these songs as President Obama campaigns for Clinton and the end of his eight years in the White House (which brings me a lot of sadness as I would vote for that man and his family about twenty more times.  In fact, can Michelle run in the next four years?)  This is exactly what I tried to do with Beloved and my emotional state when reading and researching this book. If you’ve never read anything by Morrison, I highly recommend it.

Here are some reasons:

  1. She’s considered an author in The New Canon. 
  2. Her books always have strong female characters who are often forced to walk through oppression, trauma, and historical blindspots.  (My personal favorite is Sula).
  3. If you need an introduction, her essay “Strangers” is one of my favorites. (Can be found in the Norton Reader).
  4. She holds her own Nobel Prize in Literature.
  5. She knows why she writes, “I want to write for people like me, which is to say black people, curious people, demanding people — people who can’t be faked, people who don’t need to be patronized, people who have very, very high criteria.”
  6. She’s the queen of historical fiction (except she doesn’t really fit any “genre”).

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My favorite Morrison book is Sula and I think it’s one of the easiest to start with.  I think I read in two days.  What are your favorites? Have any of her books been on your To Read lists forever? Do you have any favorite quotes from her novels? If you have a great reason to recommend Song of Soloman or Paradise, I will hear it because those are the two I haven’t read yet.

DISCUSSION:

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