lauantai 5. syyskuuta 2009

Toni Morrison: Sula

So when they first met, first in those chocolate halls and next through the ropes of the swing, they felt the ease and comfort of old friends. Because each had discovered years before that they were neither white nor male, and that all freedom and triumph was forbidden to them, they had set about creating something else to be. Their meeting was fortunate, for it let them use each other to grow on. Daughters of distant mothers and incomprehensible fathers (Sula's because he was dead; Nel's because he wasn't), they found in each other's eyes the intimacy they were looking for.

I have to admit that I have never read anything by Toni Morrison before, although I know that she is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of black America, especially from the female perspective. While Beloved (1987) and Jazz (1992) are probably her best-known works (the latter published just before Morrison became the first black American to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993), Sula (1974) represents her earlier work as a novelist.

I enjoy the kinds of novels that encourage you to imagine in detail what their fictional world looks like. Sula is like that. You can see the small Ohio town of Medallion in your mind; the black people and their houses on the hill above the town, in a place paradoxically referred to as 'the Bottom'. Morrison's language is full of strange and wonderful adjectives and descriptions, often related to the colours of people, places and objects, even feelings, with the obvious significance of colour symbolism, of course.  

Sula tells the story of two black girls, who are best friends as children, but who grow up to become very different kinds of women. Nel Wright chooses to stay in her childhood town, get married and have children. While Sula Peace, with her birthmark shaped like a rose, drifts away from her family, traveling around the country and adopting a much more independent, rebellious attitude. When Sula returns to her childhood town after 10 years, the community is shocked at her free sexuality and seeming lack of compassion for others.

This is only the main plot of the novel and there is so much more to it. Three generations worth of lives, town eccentrics, visitors and friends make up a colourful and complex collection of intertwined stories at the centre of which is the struggle for equality that is both slow and painful.

Toni Morrison: Sula. Plume. 1973. Sula Toni Morrison
Wikipedia: Sula
Wikipedia: Toni Morrison

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