Friday, February 4, 2011

Outlaw women are fascinating

Tony over at Keeping Up With Mr. Jones put forth a reading challenge for February: in honor of Black History Month read books by African-American authors or else about the African-American experience. I've taken up this challenge and decided to read Sula by Toni Morrison, mostly because I already own the book AND I have it with me. So essentially, I'm doing this because it's easy. Rather coming up with the book is easy. Morrison on the other hand is never easy. She's worth the challenge, but she makes you work for it.

My copy of Sula comes with a foreword by Morrison in which she discusses the experience of being an African-American writer and writing about female characters. Sounds like just the thing to read into for this challenge huh?

Even before getting into the actual story Morrison has given me a lot to think about. Here are some key points  from the intro I want to keep in mind during my reading:

Morrison discussing the political nature forced onto African-American writing
"If Phillis Wheatly wrote "The sky is blue," the critical question was what could blue sky mean to a black slave woman? If Jean Toomer wrote "The iron is hot," the question was how accurately or poorly he expressed chains of servitude." (xi-xii)
Female characters I'll encounter in Sula
"Outlaw women are fascinating -- not always for their behavior, but because historically women are seen as naturally disruptive and their status is an illegal one from birth if it is not under the rule of men." (xvi)
And finally the questions Morrison wanted to ask with this novel
"What is friendship between women when unmediated by men? What choices are available to black women outside their own society's approval? What are the risks of individualism in a determinedly individualistic, yet racially uniform and socially static, community?" (xiii)
I have a feeling this book is going to take me awhile to get through. It's a short but dense book, like her others, and Morrison chooses her words carefully. I find myself putting the book down after a few pages and absorbing exactly what it is she's said. With that I'm both nervous and excited for where this book will lead me.

Morrison, Toni. Sula. Vintage, 2004.