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‘Recitatif’ Review: Toni Morrison on Race and Culture

Morrison’s uncoordinated logic is what I love about “Recitatif,” her short story first published in 1983 and now being released for the first time as a standalone book. “Recitatif” depicts the friendship between two girls – one white, one black – who meet at a shelter. They have different reasons for going there: Roberta’s mother is ill, while Twyla “loves to dance”. In the story, told from Twyla’s point of view, we meet the girls over the years, but Morrison never identifies the races of either of them.

As she later explains in “Playing in the Dark: Bright White and the Literary Imagination,” “The Only Short Story I Ever Wrote, “Recitatif,” was an experiment in getting rid of all the code. race from a narrative about two characters of different races for whom racial identity is crucial. Absence is Morrison’s central point; once racial cues are stripped from the girls, each reader of “Recitatif” will experience the story in a completely subjective way.

This subjectivity also appears in literary criticism. Some scholars claim they cracked Morrison’s race code. In an essay titled “Writing Black, Reading White: Race and the Politics of Feminist Interpretation,” Elizabeth Abel points to what she considers to be clues to girls’ race. Ann Rayson, in “Decoding for Race: “Recitatif” and Being White, Teaching Black by Toni Morrison, asserts there are “clear signs of race”. However, when I returned to “Recitatif” some 25 years after my first reading, it became clear that Morrison had mastered the use of race codes like a game of shells: You can never find a solution. reward. After the third and fourth reading, I am still confused. Honestly, I like it that way.

When Morrison published “Recitatif” in 1983, it was almost a revolutionary act to insist that white people also have a race. Therefore, her 20th-century readers would probably not be looking for the symbols of w .hide, “normative” identity. (Some might say it’s still the norm.) Most readers will look for Blackness – its visuals, its music, its vernacular, its performance. Static prejudice, its American style.

However, keep in mind that Morrison told us in “Playing in the Shadows” that race is still there in the story. We (her readers) cannot be identified. Twyla and Roberta – two wounded, mostly unsettled girls who grew up with material and emotional precariousness – are playing the racist games they’ve been dealt with. However, since it was unknown who was holding which hand, their social reality became more and more absurd.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/28/books/review/toni-morrison-recitatif.html ‘Recitatif’ Review: Toni Morrison on Race and Culture

Fry Electronics Team

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