The Toni Morrison book club

Juda Bennett, 1955-

Book - 2020

"What is a book club but an excuse to talk to friends? The Toni Morrison Book Club brings that experience to life by telling the story of four friends who turn to Toni Morrison as they search for meaning in their lives. In this startling group memoir, the writers--black and white, gay and straight, immigrant and American born--allow Morrison's words, like music, to make them feel, confess, and discover. The result is a collection of deeply personal conversations about everything from first love to Soul Train to police brutality, all told with an ever present lens on race in America. Not shying away from controversies, this book offers a radically new way to envision book clubs as a healing force in our lives. So pull up a chair an...d pour yourself a much needed glass of wine, as you get ready to experience the messy differences, surprising revelations, and restorative power of The Toni Morrison Book Club"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 305.896/Bennett Checked In
Madison, Wisconsin : The University of Wisconsin Press [2020]
Main Author
Juda Bennett, 1955- (author)
Other Authors
Winnifred R. Brown-Glaude, 1966- (author), Cassandra Jackson, 1972-, Piper Kendrix Williams, 1972-
Physical Description
vii, 196 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 192-196).
  • Introduction: The Book Club Meets
  • Cassandra's Secret
  • Not Today, Motherf#@$
  • Why Black Folks Go Crazy
  • Judo's Secret
  • Dangerous Music
  • Funny White People
  • Winnie's Secret
  • Black Life and the Dead Deer
  • On Guns and Apples
  • Piper's Secret
  • Too Many White Guys
  • Harriet Tubman's Shawl
  • Epilogue: A Letter to Toni Morrison
  • Afterword
  • Acknowledgments
  • Sources
Review by Booklist Review

Scholars Bennett, Brown-Glaude, Jackson, and Williams commune through this collection of personal essays examining the brilliance and relevance of Toni Morrison's classic works. They dissect how The Bluest Eye (1970), Beloved (1987), A Mercy (2008), and Song of Solomon (1977) help readers navigate issues that still plague current society. Across themes like the protectiveness of black motherhood, mental health within the black community, xenophobia, and the Black Lives Matter movement, they delve into Morrison's words and the words of those left out in the margins. The authors share experiences that have shaped the way they see the world, with writing that's crisp and direct and with a level of vulnerability that is not only commendable but heartwarming. They do not shy away from uncomfortable truths Morrison's work explores, such as the racist over-sexualization of black bodies or the absurdity of racism as a performance, experienced via white characters Morrison encourages readers to laugh at. This book is an intimate view into the audience Morrison wrote for, as well as the hopeful future she wrote towards. It is a beautiful homage to Morrison's legacy, and a light on all the work there is left to do.--LaParis Hawkins Copyright 2020 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this insightful group memoir, a reading group of four English professors from the College of New Jersey tackles four Toni Morrison novels: Beloved, The Bluest Eye, A Mercy, and Song of Solomon. Each contributing a pair of essays, they consider African-American history, personal experiences, and Morrison's lessons for the present moment. Jackson interprets The Bluest Eye as a critique of the "strong black woman" cultural trope, while Brown-Glaude finds in Song of Solomon "models of resistance from which we can learn... today." Bennett muses on his outsider position as the volume's one white contributor through Beloved's "brief representation of a comic white girl," and Williams reflects on A Mercy's exploration of the costs of "being seen" through her own memory of "being the only black kid in a sea of" white high school students. She then fittingly concludes the collection with a piece that merges the personal, literary, historical, and contemporary, as she visits the National Museum of African American History and Culture and feels, while viewing Harriet Tubman's shawl, the "epiphanal blackness" also present in Morrison's work. For book lovers and history buffs, as well as the politically engaged, this collection, though small in size, will yield vast intellectual riches. (Feb.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

In 2015, college professor friends Bennett (Toni Morrison and the Queer Pleasure of Ghosts), Winnifred Brown-Glande (Higglers in Kingston: Women's Informal Work in Jamaica), Cassandra Jackson (Violence, Visual Culture, and the Black Male Body), and Piper Kendrix Williams (Representing Segregation: Toward an Aesthetics of Living Jim Crow), who form a diverse group of black and white, gay and straight, immigrant and American-born, gathered together and created the Toni Morrison Book Club. After two years of meetings, they crafted this personal work celebrating Morrison's most memorable novels, including The Bluest Eye, Beloved, Song of Solomon, and A Mercy. Here, an aspect of Morrison's writings becomes a catalyst for discussions on police brutality, immigration, xenophobia, mothering, and exoticizing black female bodies, with intimate, moving, and often funny essays evoking a thoughtfulness and honesty on the part of the authors that in turn is demanded from readers. VERDICT All who pick up this book, from Morrison devotees to newcomers, will discover lessons in the literature to apply to their own lives. They will also feel inspired and wish to be part of a Toni Morrison Book Club of their own.--Stefanie Hollmichel, Univ. of St. Thomas Law Lib., Minneapolis

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Toni Morrison's novels elicit powerful feelings of fear, grief, and anger.Friends and colleagues at the College of New Jersey, Bennett (Toni Morrison and the Queer Pleasure of Ghosts, 2014, etc.), Brown-Glaude (Higglers in Kingston: Women's Informal Work in Jamaica, 2011, etc.), Jackson (Violence, Visual Culture, and the Black Male Body, 2010, etc.), and Williams (co-editor: Representing Segregation: Toward an Aesthetics of Living Jim Crow, 2012) gathered informally for several years to discuss the novels of the iconic Nobel laureate: "Morrison is our griot, a singer and social commentator, the keeper of traditions and the exemplary engaged citizen of our world." Black and white, three women and one man, all parents anxious about their children's futures, they discovered that Morrison's works spoke to each of them directly, helping them to understand what it means to be black in America and to "live whole in times of uncertainty." To structure the conversations conveyed in this insightful group memoir, they agreed to focus on four novelsThe Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Beloved, and A Mercyassigning each to two writers to show how the same novel affects different readers. Besides offering close, fresh readings of Morrison's narratives, the authors share personal stories about the experiences that have shaped them as readers. Bennett, for example, grew up knowing he was an anomaly in his racist military and law enforcement family. Reading Song of Solomon, he writes, gave him a "feeling of floating outside myself" that allowed him "to feel comfortable as an outsider." Jackson, writing about Beloved, and Brown-Glaude, about Song of Solomon, reveal their fears as mothers, consumed by worry about how to keep a child safe in a world where so many unarmed young black people have been killed by police. "My fear is borne out of the unpredictability of those deaths," Brown-Glaude writes. "And my fear, at times, turns to anger toward those mothers of white sons who do not have to live this way."Intimate responses to fiction cohere into a moving meditation on race. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.