Two months ago, I read Toni Morrison’s Sula for the first time. Most of the people to whom I confessed this were a bit aghast. The first time?! How old are you again? Weren’t you assigned that in high school?! Super-duper late pass me. I took forever to unlock the wonder that is Morrison’s second novel, but now that I have, I know its characters will haunt and rivet me forever.
Published in 1973, Sula was nominated for a National Book Award in 1975. To this day, some believe its loss to Robert Stone’s Dog Soldiers and Thomas Williams’ The Hair of Harold Roux is one of the National Book Foundation’s greater oversights.
Two of today’s prominent black woman writers discussed Sula‘s long-standing impact at the National Book Foundation website recently.
Professor and writer Asali Solomon says:
The character Sula, for women and the people who are interested in them, is herself a myth, a legend, a worldly saint who offers something different each reading. In 1973 when Sula was published, the character Sula stood out sharply among the vast majority of black female heroines for the fact that she was actually brown-skinned. Though this seems (absurdly when you think about it) a particular political statement on Morrison’s part, it is connected to something universally inspiring about Sula. She finds herself fascinating and sexy despite the indifference of her community and the world outside of it.
Breathtaking up-and-coming fiction writer Tiphanie Yanique explores Sula‘s connections to her own experience with mothering:
Sula is a slight book exploring only the world of a small place (not even a town, not even a neighborhood or a community) called the Bottom. I read the book in one day. It was a day when my infant son was in daycare. I kept putting the book down to consider saving him from the possible dangers of the daycare provider. Sula, for all the academic papers and book club discussions of it being about sisterhood, is also a book about motherhood.
A book of mothers who love their children but admit to not liking them. A book of women who don’t believe they can create children if they want to keep on creating themselves as well.
What do you think of these readings of Sula? When did you read it for the first time? What’s your favorite Toni Morrison novel?