The Toni Morrison Book Club
Juda Bennett, Winnifred Brown-Glaude, Cassandra Jackson, and Piper Kendrix Williams
“For book lovers and history buffs, as well as the politically engaged, this collection, though small in size, will yield vast intellectual riches.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
In this startling group memoir, four friends—black and white, gay and straight, immigrant and American-born—use Toni Morrison’s novels as a springboard for intimate and revealing conversations about the problems of everyday racism and living whole in times of uncertainty. Tackling everything from first love and Soul Train to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, the authors take up what it means to read challenging literature collaboratively and to learn in public as an act of individual reckoning and social resistance.
Framing their book club around collective secrets, the group bears witness to how Morrison’s works and words can propel us forward while we sit with uncomfortable questions about race, gender, and identity. How do we make space for black vulnerability in the face of white supremacy and internalized self-loathing? How do historical novels speak to us now about the delicate seams that hold black minds and bodies together?
This slim and brilliant confessional offers a radical vision for book clubs as sites of self-discovery and communal healing. The Toni Morrison Book Club insists that we find ourselves in fiction and think of Morrison as a spiritual guide to our most difficult thoughts and ideas about American literature and life.
Juda Bennett is a professor of English at The College of New Jersey and the author of Toni Morrison and the Queer Pleasure of Ghosts and The Passing Figure. Winnifred Brown-Glaude is an associate professor of African American studies and sociology at The College of New Jersey and the author of Higglers in Kingston: Women’s Informal Work in Jamaica. Cassandra Jackson is a professor of English at The College of New Jersey and the author of Violence, Visual Studies, and the Black Male Body and Barriers between Us: Interracial Sex in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction. Piper Kendrix Williams is an associate professor of English and African American studies at The College of New Jersey and the coeditor of Representing Segregation: Toward an Aesthetics of Living Jim Crow, and Other Forms of Racial Division..
“This powerful and marvelous book is an experimental memoir as a collective effort that plunges into the depths of Toni Morrison’s genius. These serious reflections and heartfelt interpretations not only ‘guard against burying hurt’ but also give us hope with empowering insights into contemporary America!”
“What can the work of Toni Morrison teach us about the world we live in? Morrison’s work provides a scaffolding here; the narrative frame of the distinct voices is unique and makes for an intriguing multivocal experience.”
—Emily Bernard, author of Black Is the Body
“To read Toni Morrison is to encounter the complex interiority of a raced and gendered people as well as the nation state in which they make meaning of their lives. Morrison showed us that some of those meanings are lies. Like Morrison, the collective memoirists of The Toni Morrison Book Club, demonstrate through stunning vulnerability that there ought to be no withholding of secrets—only the messy and difficult work of writing the truth knowing that it is in that endeavor where we might ultimately touch a freedom that has been denied so many of us for so long.”
—Darnell L. Moore, author of No Ashes in the Fire
“Poignant. Fear and dread run through this book in a really impactful way, and every revelation feels substantive and singular. Reading Morrison becomes vital to the group’s efforts to mourn and to march forward in their own lives.”
—Michelle S. Hite, Spelman College
LC: 2019008295 E
208 pp. 5.5 x 8.5
5 b/w photos