Musings on Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child
By Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman
When I read early publicity that Toni Morrison’s newest book, God Help the Child, was a novel written about a dark-skinned black woman who is brutalized by her mother because of her color, it struck a chord. It resonated with me because my first book, The Color of Love: Racial Features, Stigma, and Socialization in Black Brazilian Families, is a sociological book that will be published later this year addressing similar issues. I relished in imagining that Morrison and I may have vibed on the same conceptual wavelength without knowing it, pondering questions of colorism in black families, and leading us to publish a book on similar topics in the same year. I eagerly pre-ordered Toni Morrison’s new book, with excitement and incredulity … and then fear crept in. As a fledgling sociologist, I thought that Morrison’s book could only mean one thing: the kiss of death for my book. But wait, this was no irrational fear. Anyone who has read Morrison’s work knows that when she gives a theme her treatment, she forfeits the necessity of any more words. She articulates with ease in 150 pages, what I can not accomplish with a modicum of the same impact in 350 pages. Visions of us intellectually vibing were now overcome with the sense that her book would render my book redundant and, at worst, mundane. I had the sinking feeling that Toni Morrison had stolen my thunder.