The cover of "Recitatif"


Toni Morrison, MA ’55

The late novelist and essayist’s only short story—which she wrote in 1983—has just recently been published in stand-alone book form. The plot concerns an interracial friendship between two 8-year-old girls who meet in a New York State shelter—though, by the author’s design, it’s never clear which is Black and which is white. The volume opens with an extensive analysis by novelist and academic Zadie Smith, but Kirkus advises that readers “skip over the 50-page introduction and read the 50-page story first.” Says the review: “Just as students read the text before they hear the lecture, Smith’s exegesis is much more meaningful if you know the story. If you read the intro first, you forfeit the ability to apprehend the story on your own, more critical than usual here since the issue goes beyond spoilers. According to Morrison herself, this story is ‘an experiment in the removal of all racial codes from a narrative about two characters of different races for whom racial identity is crucial.’”

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