I already told you to read any Toni Morrison you can get your hands on, so it should come as no surprise when I add Jazz as another great addition to the antiracist reading list.
As I wrote recently, I’ve never read anyone who draws characters better than Morrison did. They are vivid, real enough it feels as if a reader is listening as someone bares their story and soul from across a sitting room or kitchen table.
Often, stories become universal in their particularity. By being rooted in a writer’s own humanity, people who don’t share any circumstances with the storyteller somehow find their own heart reflected back. As a white man, that’s not my experience reading Morrison’s novels. Her work doesn’t offer me a mirror, but instead a window into the humanity of others, offering glimpses into realities other than my own. And in part, they are lives lived under the weight of my own privilege and the privilege of the people I come from.
Obviously, her work is infinitely more remarkable and significant than my experience of it, but one tiny facet of Morrison’s work is that it invites white readers to grow in compassion, empathy, and humility, and to remind us that our own stories are often told at the expense of the stories of others.