Home by Toni Morrison

Home by Toni Morrison
Indeed.

This 2012 novella by legendary novelist and professor Toni Morrison (1931-2019) was her penultimate work. It was her 10th book overall, although she also wrote books for children.

It tells the story of Frank Money, a soldier in his early 20s. He’s self-loathing and unhappy with his antics from the Korean war (1950-1953). And his post-war behaviour in this work represents much of the divisive era in America.

Home

This is a tale of PTSD (“shell shock”) due to war, along the lines of many others. Money finds himself back in various areas of racist America.

Alongside his physical scars, there are mental ones. But in his hometown of Georgia, he’s eager to help his sister back to their place of birth.

And his return back supplies him with unexpected strength.

The chance to begin again and grow. How war doesn’t turn an individual into a “man”, but how more advanced emotional experiences can shape someone.

As the first Toni Morrison book we’ve read (yes, we’re behind the times) it’s an interesting work.

It wasn’t overly well-received against the likes of Song of Solomon (1977), which is viewed as one of her masterpieces. Reviews remain mixed for Home.

But it’s an insightful look at the nature of war, racism, and how the worst of humanity blights the world around us.

As a closing effort in her career it’s an intriguing novella. A fine, concise piece of writing that contemplates the future—by considering the past.

Toni Morrison

One of America’s most celebrated contemporary writers, Morrison was a noted campaigner for equality.

She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 to confirm her brilliance and contributions to the world around us.

And in 1996 she claimed the National Endowment for the Humanities in the US, so that’s arguably more telling than the Nobel.

As English folks, we look now and see her stance on America, race, and prejudice. The paradox of tolerance is raised here—to challenge bigotry, a person must be intolerant.

But we must remember Home was written around 2011—and tensions have only become worse since (not just in America, of course). The idea discrimination belongs in the past is disastrously naïve and when leading thinkers challenge bigotry, it’s only a good thing.

In England, hate crimes have skyrocketed over the last three years. Particularly against the Islamic and Jewish communities—the result of a Tory government.

For our efforts on the Hitler: The Rise of Evil post we had a far-right individual from Indianapolis telling us to, “Kill yourself faggot”. A comment we blocked and ignored.

But we’ve seen far worse online. We’re in an era of casual bigotry, with big business capitalism fuelling poverty—along with populist governments.

Where people are more eager to complain about “woke” politics than staggering levels of inequality.

And such inequality fuels ignorance and misguided hatred. It’s not the best of times. But we can remember Toni Morrison and many other conscientious fighters for a just world.

Standing up to ignorance and prejudice is the first step. And Morrison’s body of work takes the sting off the rising tide of unpleasantness.

19 comments

  1. I missed your post on the Hitler mini-series (I only saw some, but not all of it, when it screened on NZ TV back in 2003). It’s a pity you got a commenter of the ilk you mention. What worries me – as you’ve also highlighted in this post about Morrison’s work – is the parameters of social judgement. These seem to be changing to extremes just now. It’s an insidious process in which each step becomes normalised: nobody really notices the swing. It’s worried me that the very spectrum of ‘reasonable/reasonableness’, in so many senses, has shifted to the point where – for instance – the socio-economic policies normal to the democracies during the mid-late twentieth century, and still true in the Scandinavian countries today, are demonised for being ‘socialist/libtard’ (whatever the latter is) elsewhere. Really? I thought they worked pretty well. What worries me is that the potential for the wider social behaviours that opened the door in Weimar Germany for Hitler and his deep evil are true of any organised society. Ouch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s kind of inevitable really, although I’ve certainly not had someone so blatantly anti-Semitic before. So it was eye opening, but with people like that my stance is to not engage them in any debate.

      And yes, fully agreed there. In England there’s a mass poverty due to basically the greed of others. And people are angry, read the tabloids, get confused, and then take it all out on immigrants etc.

      So there’s a mass of misinformation and everything. And it’s getting a bit disturbing. Especially when balancing things out and focussing on equality gets whacked as “socialist” and people think it’ll end like some Stalinist state. All very worrying. And meanwhile the climate crisis rumbles on whilst we bicker about money. Sheesh.

      Like

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