Saturday, January 22, 2011


The following passage is from Toni Morrison's novel, Beloved. It made me cry. It's perfect narrative. I had to share it with you. Morrison's novels are about modern African American experience. She is said to have stated that she began writing novels (after the age of thirty) because she had an idea of a novel she wanted to read, but couldn't find such a one. She wrote the stories she had wished to read. The results have been beautiful.

"When warm weather came, Baby Suggs, holy, followed by every black man, woman, and child who could make it through, took her great heart to the Clearing--a wide open place cut deep in the woods nobody knew for what at the end of a path known only to deer and whomever cleared the land in the first place. In the heat of every Saturday afternoon, she sat in the clearning while the people waited among the trees.

After seating herself on a huge flat-sided rock, Baby Suggs bowed her head and prayed silently. The company watched from the trees. They knew she was ready when she put her stick down. Then she shouted, "Let the children come!" And they ran from the trees toward her.

"Let your mothers hear you laugh," she told them, and the woods rang. The adults looked on and could not help smiling.

Then, "Let the grown men come," she shouted. They stepped out one by one from the ringing trees.

"Let your wives and your children see you dance," she told them, and the groundlife shuddered under their feet.

Finally, she called the women to her. "Cry," she told them. "Cry for the living and for the dead. Just cry." And without covering their eyes, the women let loose.

It started that way: laughing children, dancing men, crying women and then it got mixed up. Women stopped crying and danced; men sat down and cried; children danced, women laughed, children cried until, exhausted and riven, all and each lay about the Clearning damp and gasping for breath. In the silence that followed, Baby Suggs, holy, offered up to them her great, big heart."

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. Vintage Books, New York: 2004. 102-3.


  1. Beautiful passage.

    In the process of obtaining my English degree I was able to do area studies on African literature as well as African American literature and I enjoyed this the most. Their strong sense of community makes their literature overpowering.

  2. Lauren! I have done a lot of the same study! Two different classes gave me the opportunity to study women in post-colonial Nigeria and women's issues in Western Africa in general, respectively. I love this area of study, as well!

  3. Normally I am right there with you. But ever since we read Beloved in high school and my teacher was crappy, I have not been able to get on board with this book.

  4. @TLZ: That's so sad, but I do know what you mean. I've had some really crazy bitch teachers in the past, and I'm still find myself kind of ambivalent about the course material I studied in those classes.



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