Reviewing Toni Morrison’s “A Mercy”

First, a disclaimer: This is the third of Morrison’s books that I’ve read, and I am honestly unsure if she’s capable of writing a bad book.

A Mercy is slightly different from her other books in that it doesn’t place a lot of emphasis on the black experience. Instead, it is more about the disenfranchised in general — particularly women. A white European wife, the daughter of a black slave woman, an Indian woman, and one young girl of unknown race are the main characters — defined by men, by religious turmoil, by greed, and by the harshness of living in the New World. Some triumph, some abide, some turn into monsters. It’s a beautiful set of stories, heartbreaking and freeing all at once.

My only complaint is less of a complaint and more of a preference. The structure of the stories (non-linear) gives away some of the suspense. But perhaps the story was less about the stories and more about the feelings — little events that cause huge repercussions over time and and through separation.

No matter what sort of books you usually read, put A Mercy in your “to read” pile. Now. It’s amazing, moving, and even short enough to finish while you’re waiting in airports this summer.

Read A Banned Book!

This week is Banned Books Week.  As a writer, avid reader, and supporter of the First Amendment, I invite you to read a banned book to celebrate and support non-censorship in schools and libraries.

As Amanda Rudd pointed out in her excellent post on Banned Books Week, there is, of course, the need for caution when introducing a child to material that may be considered inappropriate.  As a former teacher and a homeschool tutor, I fully support using age-appropriateness standards when giving kids reading materials.  I am a  Christian, so I also understand parents’ concerns about exposing children to material that doesn’t mesh well with religious beliefs.  However, no child should be sheltered and no one has the right to tell someone else they are not allowed to read or write what they please.

In addition, don’t we all know the universal axiom that making something taboo or forbidden just makes it more appealing to young, curious, inexperienced minds?

In honor of Banned Books Week and the Kids’ Right to Read, I’d like to suggest a few of my favorite banned books:

  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison — An absolutely amazing book, this is good for older teens, especially women and minorities.
  • To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee — If you don’t like this book, you’re a Philistine.  Period.
  • The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling — I find the objections to this series hilarious, as it is, in fact, written from Rowling’s struggle with faith and reads as a Christ story.  Great books for anybody, young or old.
  • The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier — A great book for high schoolers, this story details the horror of bullying.  A contemporary topic, no?
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood — Graphic, yes.  But still wonderfully written and a great example of what happens when we force our own ideals on others.
  • That Was Then, This Is Now by S.E. Hinton — Have teens read it to teach them the consequences of drug abuse and violence.  Wonderfully written.

To hear the reasoning behind some commonly banned/challenged books, check out the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.

What banned books have you read?