What’s It About? In an all-black town settled by the descendants of freed slaves, the local women find refuge in an old convent and set up an alternative cultural lifestyle. Let’s just say that the townsmen don’t take too kindly to it.
Why? Toni Morrison. Period.
Thoughts: Though Paradise is said to be the lesser of Toni Morrison’s work (it was published right after she was the Nobel and critics ripped it apart), I still enjoyed and took away a lot of substantial insights. Morrison is special to me because she presents a terrible scene of violence and then slowly shows how the act is a culmination of the cultural, social, and gendered experiences of the oppressed. In Paradise, these tensions are located in the changing attitudes of blacks towards whites, the descendant’s struggle between honoring their past struggles and moving forward in progress, and how women’s liberation counters the masculine, civilized ideals that these pressured descendants have fought for.
The literary world of Paradise achieves this goal by the end, but the book lacks some of the nuance and inspiring complexity that her other books have. At times, Morrison seems more concerned with presenting a straight-forward history of the town than with character experiences– some of it becomes a bit redundant and dry. Also, Morrison’s Paradise characters come out a bit one-sided. Even though each woman in the convent is introduced with her own individuality and background, they all kind of sink into an allegorical blend of mysticism and goodness. Likewise, all the men are stubborn and bad. However,much of Paradise contains moments of really wonderful insight that you simply do not gain in history books or allegories.
P.S. Who’s the white girl? I thought it was Seneca right up until the end, when I had no idea.
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