Thanks to Partner Libro.fm for the digital ALC of The Toni Morrison Book Club in exchange for an honest review. The book is available now. Juda Bennett, Winifred Brown-Glaude, Cassandra Jackson, and Piper Kendrix Williams wrote The Toni Morrison Book Club collaboratively, an extension of their real-world book club and their experiences reading four Toni Morrison novels.
Their book, which I listened to via Libro.fm, mirrors some of my favorite things about the best book clubs and buddy reads: it’s both a serious and analytical consideration of Morrison’s work AND an exploration of the ways that her books reflect the book club members’ realities.
The diversity of the four authors--the publisher explains that they are “black and white, gay and straight, immigrant and American-born”--is a strength, as each author shares the ways that she (or he) connects to a particular Morrison novel. The Toni Morrison Book Club is organized into a series of essays about The Bluest Eye, Beloved, A Mercy, and Song of Solomon, and the authors’ approaches aren’t always straightforward. So, there are focuses on parenthood, on humor, and on toxic masculinity (among others), rather than just examinations of main themes. I should say, as well, that I’ve read three of the four books discussed--and it’s been a long time for two of them--but I still found the essays to be rich, and there’s enough context provided that I wasn’t lost.
Shorter essays connect the main chapters, explaining how the book club members came to write about each topic chosen. Some of these connecting pieces were stronger than others, but I appreciated the details about each journey. I often find my way to true understandings of books through conversation, so to hear that experience reflected through the book felt right.
The Toni Morrison Book Club is a timely and serious endeavor, but one that’s also challenging and enjoyable in the ways that the best, real-life book clubs can be. I would definitely recommend the audiobook, since the multiple narrators helped to reflect the four distinct contributors.
I'm Jen Moyers, co-host of the Unabridged Podcast and an English teacher.