Drawing Parallels through Oral Histories

I found the fact that Morrison includes Patricia as a kind of oral historian in Paradise to be jarring considering the fact that I worked at a museum which created a project that recorded the histories of people who are of mixed descent. I wanted to do some work addressing the parallels between Patricia and the work that Brooklyn Historical Society did using the blog post that I wrote about Lacy Shwartz, a mixed-race woman whose Jewish family never told her that she was half black.

Shwartz, whose story is documented in her short documentary, Little White Lie, talked about the sentiments she garnered as a biracial woman. She said that being mixed was a category of being black, “When you are defaulted into the black student union, even though you have black pigment in your skin, there is also a white privilege that you have to let go of. I’m aware of it and I definitely certainly embody it.” Shwartz talked about how as a light-skinned black woman, she at times had a “passing privilege,” which she had to let go of. The same idea is built upon in Morrison’s Paradise.

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a person made to bear the blame for others


(Old Testament) a goat used in the ritual of Yom Kippur (Leviticus16); it was symbolically laden with the sins of the Israelites and sentinto the wilderness to be destroyed



(transitive) to make a scapegoat of

In class, Prof. McCoy had us reread the line from Ruby which states, “their T-shirts, work shirts and dashikis soak up cold like fever,” pointing to the fact that this group was not only distinctly male- it also included members across all age groups (3). Morrison intentionally created a scenario where the violence being enacted is done in such a way as to label an innocent group guilty for events within the community, aka picking a scapegoat. Continue reading “Scapegoats”

Sha Sha Sha

In class Dr.McCoy has mentioned Toni Morrison’s television interview, Uncensored, a couple of times, and while I could not find a site that would provide the entire interview without paying for it, I was able to find three segments of the interview on YouTube. Each video is only about 3-5 minutes long, but provide some extremely helpful context behind Morrison’s works. I am linking the third video in particular because Morrison goes into detail behind the meaning of sha sha sha within Consolata’s chapter of Paradise. Morrison states that she chose “the sound and the rhythm to suggest the eroticism and the longing,” that Consolata felt deep within her and could not express through words. Consolata’s lack of ability to express these feelings through language can be seen in the passage “‘But he, but he.’ Sha sha sha. Sha sha sha, she wanted to say, meaning, he and I are the same” (241). I think this passage along with the context provided by the interview relate well to our discussions in class of sound within Morrison’s work, as well as the repercussions of expulsions for her characters.

“Blues da Piedade”


Since completing reading the novel, I have been trying to make sense of the recurrence of the name “Piedade” throughout the novel.  The name comes up quite a few times:

  1. “Then [Connie] told them of a woman named Piedade, who sang but never said a word” (264).
  2. “There is nothing to beat this solace which is what Piedade’s song is about, although the words evoke memories neither one has ever has: of reaching age in the company of another…” (318).
  3. “When the ocean heaves sending rhythms of water ashore, Piedade looks to see what has come” (318).

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Predestination/Free Will: Both/And

Recently, I ended up spiraling through a wormhole of BBC and National Geographic documentaries rather than relaxing with a good, reliable sitcom. The latest was a documentary series called “The Story of God,” hosted by Morgan Freeman in which he discusses God, justice, and morality (amongst other things) while traveling to landmarks for various religions and cultures around the world. You can imagine what sort of dynamic that has created for me while reading Dante’s Paradiso. To even further it, my Humanities class was reading the Christian Bible. So it has just been a whirlwind of big concepts in my head. Continue reading “Predestination/Free Will: Both/And”

Does Morrison Doom Characters to Their Names?

Hello all!

Something I have thinking quite a bit about lately is the bluntness of the names that Morrison gives her characters.  In class yesterday, Alpha talked a little bit about how one of the minor character’s names in the novel is “Praise Compton.”  I came across this article which explains how Compton “struggled with an outsized reputation, seared into American pop culture, as a place synonymous with gangs, drive-by shootings and gangsta rap.”  The article also mentions how crime rates have been decreasing there in the last ten years.  So why does Morrison praise the gang-infiltrated Compton?  Is she simply praising African Americans who take control of their own lives?  What do you all think of this? Continue reading “Does Morrison Doom Characters to Their Names?”

What Scholars have to say about Lesbian People in Entertainment Media

My main question entering into this project was about discussing the effects of a lesbian character’s death on viewers, especially viewers who identify as lesbians or bisexual. In finding articles, I did not necessarily find much about the effects of lesbian character death on viewers. What I did find were numerous articles on the general topic of LGB representation in entertainment media.

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Sethe and Ruby: Dehumanization

“’No, no. That’s not the way. I told you to put her human characteristics on the left; her animal ones on the right.’” (Beloved 228)

Today somebody in class brought up the part in Beloved in which Schoolteacher dehumanizes Sethe by teaching children that she is like an animal. I too recalled this part of Beloved while reading Paradise and saw even further how cruel and ignorant it is to dehumanize a human being for their race. However cruel and ignorant it is, it seems commonplace in the setting of Morrison’s books. It struck me hard when I read about Ruby’s death on page 113 and how it was entirely due to racism. Continue reading “Sethe and Ruby: Dehumanization”