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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, February 25, 2024

Bhallin' with Books: Mourning Morrison through respect

“Read anything, as long as you can't wait to pick it up again.” Nick Hornby, "Ten Years in the Tub" (2013).

Classes and homework come around and, like clockwork, I forget every book I was itching to read by Sept. 1. My 2019 school year resolution is to stop this from happening. There are way too many good books to only read for pleasure during the summer. So, my sophomore year brings my commitment to reading. 

As if finding time to read for pleasure wasn’t difficult enough, I have led myself into a difficult predicament of being accountable to the Tufts Daily for consistently reading. Though this might conflict with the idea of ‘for pleasure,’ I will nonetheless attempt to share the positive, non-academic reading endeavors I embark on. 

A little over a month ago, I realized the unfortunate reality that most of us will face at some point: not appreciating someone before they are gone. Toni Morrison’s expansive list of world-altering books should have brought me to her sooner. Sadly, it took her death to get me to pick up "Beloved" (1987).

Surely not defined as a ‘beach’ or generic ‘summer’ read, I grabbed some comfort food and a box of tissues, preparing myself for the worst heartache possible.

"Beloved" is based on thetrue story of a slave mother, Margaret Garner, who escaped from a plantation in 1856 with her children and husband. However, their owners caught up with the family while they were hiding in Ohio.Sethe is an embodiment of Garner and a passionate and devoted mother. The story is disclosed through flashbacks, slowly revealing the shocking narrative and enduring impact of slavery.

What Morrison does with "Beloved" that so many before have commented on is to gorgeously and poetically show the tragic reality of slave mothers. She reveals their constant ambivalence between wanting life and wanting anything but life as a slave for their children. Morrison delicately pulls out each piece of a former slave mother’s heart and relationships, creating a discussion around a reality often clumped into the overall umbrella of slavery. 

Starting eighteen years after her escape, Sethe is technically free from bondage but continues to be haunted by memories of her former slave home and the ghost of her baby daughter who died nameless. Her baby’s gravestone bears only one word: Beloved. 

It is dark. It is powerful. It forces you out of your comfort zone, causing you to understand and sympathize with a fierce and confused mother. Defying realism, it is still mournfully real.

With so many people already having read this book, people often give it a nod of approval and move on to one of the many other must-reads they haven’t read yet. However, the commentary that Morrison is still able to have in 2019 is both baffling and poignant. Her former slave narrative pulls out the current social dichotomies and difficulties that so many African American mothers are put through on a daily basis. 

Sometimes, classic books that are often assigned in school fail to be appreciated with the thought and respect they deserve. Reading "Beloved" purely out of choice was both rewarding and heartbreaking. 

I always feel as though if a book doesn’t spark enough emotion (of any type, not simply sadness) to make you feel like crying, then perhaps it isn’t doing its job. Morrison was a craftsman and truly knew her trade.