The Origin of Others

The Origin of Others

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America's foremost novelist reflects on the themes that preoccupy her work and increasingly dominate national and world politics: race, fear, borders, the mass movement of peoples, the desire for belonging. What is race and why does it matter? What motivates the human tendency to construct Others? Why does the presence of Others make us so afraid? Drawing on her Norton Lectures, Toni Morrison takes up these and other vital questions bearing on identity in The Origin of Others. In her search for answers, the novelist considers her own memories as well as history, politics, and especially literature. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, and Camara Laye are among the authors she examines. Readers of Morrison's fiction will welcome her discussions of some of her most celebrated books--Beloved, Paradise, and A Mercy. If we learn racism by example, then literature plays an important part in the history of race in America, both negatively and positively. Morrison writes about nineteenth-century literary efforts to romance slavery, contrasting them with the scientific racism of Samuel Cartwright and the banal diaries of the plantation overseer and slaveholder Thomas Thistlewood. She looks at configurations of blackness, notions of racial purity, and the ways in which literature employs skin color to reveal character or drive narrative. Expanding the scope of her concern, she also addresses globalization and the mass movement of peoples in this century. National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates provides a foreword to Morrison's most personal work of nonfiction to more

Product details

  • Hardback | 116 pages
  • 110 x 180 x 15.24mm | 181.44g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • 0674976452
  • 9780674976450
  • 11,671

Review quote

Morrison explores how cultures, societies, and individuals develop the notion of the Other, the reasons for it, the perceived benefits of distinguishing based on what many insist are racial traits despite the slipperiness of concepts of race...In this slim volume, Morrison shares again her enormous talent for examining the complexity of race and racial identity, the inhumanity that results from 'othering' a fellow human being, the justifications for cruelty that has resulted in romanticized images of slavery and oppression, and how the perversity of racism reverberates through centuries.--Vanessa Bush"Booklist" (08/01/2017) This is an intriguing and timely series of reflections on race, fear, belonging and otherness.--Louise Kennedy"The ARTery" (08/31/2017) [A] slender but profound volume.--Tom Beer"Newsday" (09/20/2017) What is sure to be her most personal and self-reflecting work in nonfiction yet, Morrison delves further into the themes that have always been crucial to her canon: race, politics, history, identity, et al.--Maura M. Lynch and Jinnie Lee"W Magazine" (09/03/2017) Every literature lover who dreams of studying with Toni Morrison will devour The Origin of Others, a new collection of her Harvard lectures on race, literature, and otherness.--Angela Carone"San Diego Magazine" (09/08/2017) The Origin of Others is a must read.--Tara Block"PopSugar" (08/26/2017) If you've ever wanted to take a peek into the brilliant mind of Toni Morrison, look no further than her latest book. In The Origin of Others, Morrison dissects all the thematic elements that frequent her work, and sheds light on what inspires her and what keeps her up at night. Based on her Norton Lectures, the renowned novelist delves deep into how literature has shaped society's perceptions of race over the years, as well as how some of her most beloved books came to be. Plus, it has a brilliant introduction from Ta-Nehisi Coates!--Gina Mei"Shondaland" (09/18/2017) For those who want to understand better the process of inventing others, its literary past, and the tendency in us all to dismiss others clamoring for a sense of belonging, The Origin of Others is a must-read. Morrison's fans will appreciate her hauntingly clear reading of the times, even while she remains true to her literary aesthetic. New readers can look to this text as a foray into the mind of one of the greatest thinkers of our time. With the same revolutionary simplicity as Martin Buber's I and Thou, Morrison reminds us once again that whatever can be said of the self is always determined by how one stands in relation to the other.--Audrey Thompson"Christian Century" (10/11/2017) It is hard not to want more than an afternoon with her incisive mind...Her essays are richly embellished with anecdote and memory, but grounded in literary analysis. Morrison looks to literature as a potent site of prejudicial tuition...Drafted in the months before Brexit and Donald Trump, it is hard not to see The Origin of Others as politically prescient.--Beejay Silcox"The Australian" (09/09/2017) Morrison's new book of essays, The Origin of Others, shows that the sick, sad world in which her novels are set is an old one--one that she yearns to lean out of, one we're falling right back into instead. The Origin of Others is, at once, a critique, memoir, and writer's notebook; the Nobel Prize-winning author explicates the observations and inspirations behind some of her most prized novels. The book draws from her Norton Lectures, in which she discusses race, borders, history, and other literary heavyweights such as Flannery O'Connor and Ernest Hemingway. Readers could consider this book a companion to her Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, if they want a pellucid look at the racial minefield throughout American literature.--Kaila Philo"The Millions" (09/14/2017) From legendary writer and thinker Toni Morrison comes a book that deals with one of the thorniest topics of our time: race...What is race? What motivates us to construct otherness? What makes us so afraid of one another? Probing, brilliant, and beautifully rendered, The Origin of Others is destined to become one of the major sociological texts of our time.--Elizabeth Kiefer"Refinery29" (09/01/2017)show more

Rating details

200 ratings
4.22 out of 5 stars
5 40% (81)
4 44% (89)
3 12% (24)
2 3% (6)
1 0% (0)
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