Author: Toni Morrison
Summary: A runaway slave, Sethe, tries to make a new life for herself, but she is haunted by her past. Though she has lived in "freedom" for 18 years, she is tormented not only by what happened to her as a slave, but also by memories of her infant daughter whom she killed. When her former owner appeared at her door step 18 years ago, she snapped and, blinded by hysteria, attempted to kill all four of her children, so that they would not have to endure what she did. Now, 18 years later, a 20-year-old woman appears at her home and exhibits characteristics that are eerily similar to those of the murdered baby.
Why it's been challenged: The book has been challenged for its violence, language, racism, and sexual content (including bestiality and rape). This is a very emotionally difficult book to read, yet it is very eye-opening in regards to how slaves were treated. (ALA)
If I were still teaching, would I allow my class of high schoolers to read this book? No. While I think it is important that students understand the horrific history of slavery in our country, I would not pick this book. The sexual content, though not exorbitantly gratuitous, is very prominent in the book. There is also quite a bit of language (including the "f word' [used literally]).
Though this book was a tough read, there were some very poignant quotes that I absolutely loved and wanted to share:
"Grown don't mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What's that supposed to mean? In my heart it don't mean a thing." (54)
"Saying more might push them both to a place they couldn't get back from. He would keep the rest where it belonged: in that tobacco tin buried in his chest where a red heart used to be. Its lid rusted shut. He would not pry it loose now in front of this sweet sturdy woman, for if she got a whiff of the contents it would shame him. And it would hurt her to know that there was no red heart ... beating in him." (86)
"And though she and others lived through and got over it, she could never let it happen to her own. The best thing she was, was her children. Whites might dirty her all right, but not her best thing, her beautiful, magical best thing--the part of her that was clean." (295, 296)