God Help The Child-Toni Morrison

“No matter how hard we try to ignore it, the mind always knows truth and wants clarity.”– Toni Morrison, God Help The Child

It took me a while to write this review, mainly because I was trying to find the right words. I’ve read most of Morrison’s books  There was something about it that did not feel very much like her other books. That’s not to say an author has to stick to one writing style but there were some parts of the book that caught me off-guard. Structurally this felt quite different from her other books, with more fast-paced sections, and a couple of loose ends, though it wasn’t that evident at first.

The novella focuses on Bride, a woman with blue black skin. Ignored and neglected by her mother, and not shown any love because of her black skin, she was accepted as a successful adult in the beauty industry:

“I sold my elegant blackness to all those childhood ghosts and now they pay me for it. I have to say, forcing those tormentors—the real ones and others like them– to drool with envy when they see me is more than payback. It’s glory.”

At first I thought this book was going along the lines of “The Bluest Eye” in that it discusses colourism and childhood vulnerability.Regardless of how often I read about colourism, it always surprises me how prevalent it can be, and how it can, in this case, stop a light-skinned black woman from showing any love to her dark-skinned daughter. I came across this painting the other day, A Redenção de Cam, by Modesto Brocos, which summarizes how worrying colourism is:

(from: https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Reden%C3%A7%C3%A3o_de_Cam)

Yet, colourism wasn’t a theme that was as developed as  I expected it would be.  Perhaps it’s because the book was a pretty fast-paced book.

Despite this book not being as strong as Morrison’s others,  I still quite liked it. I especially liked the conversation about how our childhood can haunt us and can often play a huge role in our adult life:

“Each will cling to a sad little story of hurt and sorrow– some long-ago trouble and pain life dumped on their pure and innocent selves. And each one will rewrite that story forever, knowing the plot, guessing the theme, inventing its meaning and dismissing its origin. What a waste.”

The main characters both carry burdens from their childhood, burdens they haven’t properly acknowledged. For example, Booker, Bride’s boyfriend, looks to his intelligence as a way of not confronting his childhood trauma. Yet it causes problems:

“I risk nothing. I sit on a throne and identify signs of imperfections in others. I’ve been charmed by my own intelligence and the moral positions I’ve taken, along with the insolence that accompanies them. But where is the brilliant research, the enlightening books, the masterpieces I used to dream of producing? Nowhere. Instead I write notes about the shortcomings of others. Easy. So easy.”

I wish this had been longer, or at least that some of the loose ends had been completed. I still had many questions!


6 thoughts on “God Help The Child-Toni Morrison

  1. I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews of this on Goodreads. I am yet to read this. I’m mostly excited for the Bride and Booker love story though :).

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