Celebrating Black History Month with Toni Morrison's "Paradise"

Anahita Padmanabhan ’18 / Emertianment Monthly Staff Writer
As we celebrate Black History Month this February, it is important to remember the events that led into 2015. The court decisions in Ferguson and in New York led to protests across the United States demanding that the voices of African Americans be heard.
But protests are not the only way for voices to be heard. Society can learn a lot about the struggles of different cultures in America through literature. Representation is important in media. It is important that young children see diversity in the books and to read books written by authors of different backgrounds so that they learn to accept other people and to feel empowered.

Author Toni Morrison. Photo Credit: Alfred A. Knopf
Author Toni Morrison. Photo Credit: Alfred A. Knopf
Books such as Paradise written by Toni Morrison may have taken place in the past jumping around the late 1900’s, but still hold relevance in current times. Issues that the families, specifically the women, faced in the small town of Ruby are still applicable to the situation we face now.
Racism is something the women in the novel faced, even from other African Americans in the town. Being lighter skinned than the rest of the people caused people to talk about Patricia Best, and caused her to be outcasted from the rest town. The townspeople do not respect her as much as other women. She tries hard to fit in and marries a darker skinned man in order to save her children from having the same fate as her.
Ruby is a town filled with only African Americans. It was a founded as an effect of racism. The founders isolated themselves from the white people of America so that they could have their own paradise, yet, as time progresses, the women in the novel have all faced rejection in some way or another. Whether it is the alienation of Best based on her skin color or the abuse that Mavis faced from her husband. All the women had their own tribulations from outward forces that caused them to come together.
The characters are incredibly relatable. They are imperfect beings trying to live a good life. Their stories give the reader the feeling that these people are maybe not so different after all. These women face problems that any other woman would face.
These struggles they encounter may seem exaggerated and the story itself of the town may feel fanciful but, the truth is, society has a tough time understanding what life is like for people of other races. That is evident through the recent events. In a predominantly black community such as Ferguson, it is hard for people who do not live that type of environment to understand the lives of the people there. What is normal for the members of Ferguson will be different to members of different city. Through literature, society can gain an understanding of the way those communities function.
Now more than ever, it is important that we read novels written with diverse voices. America is facing a pivotal moment as many people stand up to have their voices heard. Many of us are only able to look on not fully able to grasp the situation, and books play an important role in helping the nation learn and grow. Books such as Paradise help people really examine the flaws in society and the racism that still exists in today’s world.

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