Let's Talk About Literature · Short Stories · What I'm Reading as an English Major

What I’m Reading as an English Major: Recitatif by Toni Morrison

For ENGL 310, the Intro to Literary Studies class that is required for all English major at my university, we read this short story by Toni Morrison. I’ve read a Toni Morrison novel before, Song of Solomon, and quite enjoyed it. My feelings towards Recitatif are the same, if even stronger. I loved this story.

Recitatif is written in first person and told through the eyes of a girl name Twyla. When Twyla was a young girl, she was put in a foster home with another girl named Roberta. Toni Morrison tells us that one girl is black, and the other is white. And then she stops there.

The races of the two girls remain ambiguous throughout the whole story. In my ENGL 310 class we were asked to write down who we believed was black and who we believed was white. Of course all of the explanations behind our choices were stereotypical. We limited down our choices by erasing the ones that didn’t actually prove anything about their race. At the end of class, we had nothing left on the board. There was no answer to the question.

But the point of Morrison’s story was not to figure out Twyla or Roberta’s races. What Morrison wants to prove is that race is not our likes, dislikes, ideologies, hairstyle, appetite, and etc. As a society, we need to stop trying to put people in categories in attempt to understand life.

I would highly recommend anyone read this story. Not only is it interesting, but Morrison’s style and story telling power is incredible.

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