** This suggestion was posted during Banned Books Week 2015 **
Beloved is one of those books that creeps onto summer reading lists for high school or onto the syllabus for college courses. Everyone knows it’s great, partially because Oprah loves it and you just gotta trust her. Despite the high praise it has received and the obvious literary merit, some people still ignore it. Opting to use Cliff’s Notes to cram for the test or watch the movie to at least pretend like they know what they are doing. I totally get that; Toni Morrison is intimidating. But, seriously, just read it. From the first lines, “124 was spiteful. Full of baby’s venom” Morrison will catch you.
Beloved is a supernatural tale of sorts that weaves back and forth through time and perspective. However, the story is driven by Sethe– a free woman who escaped while pregnant from a plantation called Sweet Home where horrific acts of violence and sexual abuse were inflicted on the slaves that were kept there. While on the run, Sethe goes into labor and is helped by a white woman she meets along the way. Their unlikely partnership saves her life and allows Sethe to be reunited with her older children at their grandmother’s house. The family is free and safe for almost a month when the plantation owners come back to collect their “property”. What Sethe has to do to insure her family’s freedom is gruesome and ultimately haunting. Her choices that day will change the lives of their entire family and new community.
Without giving any more away, for those who haven’t cheated and read a synopsis, I want to recommend this title to everyone with eyes and/or thoughts in their brains. No other book I’ve read delves into the psychological repercussions of slavery as thoroughly as Beloved. Every time I read it I find something new I’ve missed so I also recommend you read this again even if you read it ten years ago in high school. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 and often challenged in schools, this book needs to be in your library.