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.
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.
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.