Toni Morrison's World of Fiction

By Karen Carmean | Go to book overview
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Chapter 6
Trilogy in Progress: Beloved and Jazz

After Beloved was published, Morrison felt sure that this, her fifth novel, would be the least read of her writings. Who could imagine people rushing out to buy a book on the horrors of slavery in America? She herself admits to having had a great reluctance to dwell on a subject that would force her to focus on the most painful period in her people's history. She knew that recalling the slave era would be a heart-wrenching experience for her on a very personal level. Nevertheless, she felt a compulsion to write the story because it had to be told. No one had yet told the real story; it seemed no one even wanted to think about the subject in a serious way. Morrison sensed a "national amnesia" surrounding the details of slavery and its aftermath. Not the blacks, not the whites wanted to remember. Significantly, not even the characters she would create for Beloved wanted to remember. 1 The task she set for herself, then, ran the risk of her writing a book that would be shunned. But to Morrison's surprise, Beloved became a best seller that garnered her not only a great deal of critical praise but also a wider readership than she had ever hoped for.

The genesis of the novel goes back to the time when Morrison was working on black literature projects for Random House. While editing The Black Book, a collection of items about the struggle of African-Americans over the course of 300 years, she came across a number of stories about slaves who dared to resist the system. One in particular caught her eye. This was the story of Margaret Garner, a fugitive who had escaped with her children from Kentucky and settled in a neighborhood

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