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Another Morrison read and as ever I m in awe of her rich prose, nuanced characters and multilayered narrative It s the 1970s, and follows many characters during their time in the fictional, all black town of Ruby as well as their lives before, and is a beautiful blend of classic storytelling and magic I loved that aspect of Beloved and Morrison wields her subtle use of magical realism and mysticism just as artfully in Paradise..The opening line is so powerful, setting up the shocking events to unfold later on, and you spend much of the book on edge, waiting for the inevitable violence to erupt as the utopian town takes a dark turn As usual, heavy themes are deftly tackled such as the fear of integration and change, tension between older and younger generations, and hierarchies within an all black town, where the lighter skinned mixed residents are looked down upon by the original, 8 rock families..There are a LOT of characters in this novel, all of which have a variety of different nicknames, so it gets a bit confusing at times I learned the hard way, it s not really a book to pick up and put down on a commute , but if you stick with it, the pay off is worth it A few family trees might have been useful though But even with so many characters to keep track of, each one is as layered as the next and I could have read full sized novels on many of them..The women in this book are particularly compelling, as is the almost character esque house, The Convent, which holds a dark glamour over the rest of the town, sitting way out into the country, attracting the women of the town like moths to flame.One of those books that just screams for a reread further down the line to catch all those things you didn t on your first run. I swear, it s the most fulfilling when you read an author and you have ambiguous feelings towards them and their writing But being an unbiased, fair, desperately enthusiastic reader you come back to give it a second try and it will be with that second book that you make your definitive judgement towards the author either you like them or don t You respect their writing and just can t get down with it or you think their writing is crap.I thought I didn t like Morrison I respected her as I could judge from the first book I read by her that she knew what she was talking about And as far as I could smell, there was no propaganda about her writing in which she wrote for personal gain, not to educate about Afro American life I think that claim about another African American writer and it unsettles me greatly because the writing is good and it sucks to think the intention isn t as well But with Morrison s writing, I wasn t sure I was gaining much information or insight into the past I thought she hid too much of it behind a fantastic plot magic than reality This second and last time proved to the second and best and proved it definitely won t be the last While I really did like and appreciate Beloved the focus on family and the description of fear turned to desperate measures I could not really get into the vignettes that depicted the slave life I didn t discount it let s just say I felt I could read about it somewhere else and get a stronger bullet through the heart feeling that depictions of slavery leave you with.I got such a stronger picture of life through Paradise I have no idea if it was because there were references to things I had available knowledge on such as the civil rights era But either way I got several lessons out of this book I ll list them off so this reverie can be over 1 Not all self righteous people with a cause are doing it for the right reasons2 Some African Americans felt just as privileged and pompous as whites3 Dark skinned African Americans felt hatred towards lighter skinned ones, although this is misdirected anger4 Fear of integration will only cause unhappiness5 Don t judge a woman without knowing what in her past caused her to act behave in xyz way, no matter how vulgar you may find it6 Don t judge a book by a well written synopsis or by the first chapter, no matter how confused you are Of that last lesson my thoughts on this novel evolved constantly The first chapter, which begins in medias res, not only confused me it made me think this won t be good Even now after finishing it and loving it and getting a good grip on it s meaning purpose, I don t know how to classify it It s a feminist book, a story of how women can embrace, let go, and rise above their horrors and achieve a spirituality that is both not understood and, even so, feared it s a story of how you can live a clean life and people will conjure up the dirtiest story against you, taking your life into their hands it s a story about judgement and justification to feed a personal and destructive agenda it s a story about one s duty as an African American towards their race it s a story of a corrupted, delusional people that only destroys itself and hurts it s descendants Most importantly it s a story about us vs them young vs old progressive vs traditional open minded vs close minded free spirit vs stuck male vs female It s about there not being a right way to live, only one s own individual way to live And that way is only destructive if you re living for the wrong reasons. Why is it that so often in life the very thing you re trying to avoid becomes you Why do the oppressed become the oppressor Why do the abused become the abuser Why do those who demand openness and equality become insular and elitist Why does the love that we strive so hard to obtain turn into a protective curse when we attempt to contain it vs allowing its empathy and compassion to extend to all These open ended questions are only the tip of the iceberg in Toni Morrison s Paradise It is an incredible novel that incorporates many complex themes, mind shattering symbolisms and an obvious personal investment of experience, echoes of generations gone by and silent whisperings from history that we should heed and never repeat.The idea that a group from any oppressed race can run from their problems, form their own society, and live by their own rules contains within it the basic dangers inherent in utopian thinking So often, it is not applicable or realistic according to the complexities of human nature In fact, the idea that this utopia can be acquired affirms the thesis of the oppressed becoming the oppressor We can see this in modern society with the way the Israelis treat the Palestinians Or the way that America has chosen to repress and exploit the Third World and the various racial class homosexual religious political groups at home Here we have victims creating new victims and the cycle continues The real question is, how do we break this cycle It is only through immense courage, love, empathy, compassion and strength that we step up and say no I forgive you for what has happened to me and to make that forgiveness concrete in my own life, I will strive to not become bitter and will do my best to not consciously or unconsciously pass it on to others.The concept of Paradise in Toni Morrison s novel is akin to looking into an endless sea of mirrors It reflects back upon you over and over and over Its meanings can go on to infinity, and those religious representations in the novel imply that Paradise can be infinity itself.First we have the town of Ruby It is an honest, and at first, noble idea of escaping exploitation Ah, but here we have our first red flag These African Americans are descendants of a group that has set out from the post Reconstruction era in Louisiana and Mississippi to establish their own community void of whites, or for that matter, any inter racial mixing So the very idea of exclusion is there from the start This is what gets us into trouble While it is obvious that the group believed they were simply avoiding intense suffering, there was a deep dark seed of hate that had been planted by the white man Now lest anyone come down on me, I am not saying that this hatred has no reason for being there It would be quite impossible to be treated as chattel for centuries and not carry animosity I am only pointing out that this is one of the great tests of life, and applies to any oppressed group How do you handle this situation within a history of racism experienced How do the Jews react to the Holocaust How do the Palestinians react to Jewish oppression Unfortunately, the citizens of Ruby handled it by attempting to keep their society untouched by contamination Contamination represents anything outside of their direct ancestors This incorporates skin color even as compared to other African Americans , an unspoken but expected moral code, a hierarchy in society that revolves around the founding families, and the expectation of keeping the generations continuous through marriage within the community It revolves around purity in religion, in dress, in being a productive upstanding member of society, and, consequently, becomes patriarchal, authoritarian, repressive and a power struggle.This is where we can introduce the Convent to the story The book does it from the very beginning, but that beginning is actually the end of the story Or is it the beginning of another beginning Is the symbolism involved in how the women of the Convent treated the attacking men of the town only the beginning of another cycle of repression Or, to put it clearly, are the women plotting revenge at the end of the story that will then turn them into the oppressors Again, they would certainly be justified However, what will it accomplish Only and violence.The Convent is located about 17 miles outside of the town of Ruby It was originally the project of a white collar criminal, but was taken over by a group of nuns who became yet another symbol of oppression The patriarchy that bleeds through the pages of Paradise is evident in the treatment of women by the Catholic Church The nuns of the Church have been programmed with this repression to such a degree that they in turn act as the patriarchs in this very convent It is an important point to understand, because of the way that Connie is affected She believes that she needs this authority to survive Connie is the perfect example of the woman who has been pushed down by patriarchy and authoritarianism to the point where her thoughts are not her own She has not learned the process of discovering her own individuality, but she will and does.A quick side note, as I ve mentioned it before in my writing reviews, but Morrison doesn t miss a beat with touching on what I refer to as the benefactor syndrome of missionary work The convent was set up to take the message of Christ to the Native Americans and wean them away from anything that was enjoyable in their lives It s the idea that we have it right you are the sinner, so conform to our way of thinking.But the Convent is to go through another evolution centralized around Connie After Mary Magna passes away, Connie is all alone Mary Magna was the woman who rescued Connie from the poverty of being an orphan, and she was who Connie lived for Connie never thought of the crucial process of discovery while Mary Magna was around, because she never felt the need She never had to think for herself as long as she had the convent and the sisters She didn t realize that she was a prisoner It was only the ability to step inside that was introduced to her by Lone that not only symbolized empathy, but allowed her to realize the importance of herself as her own person Yes, this seeming display of supernatural power from Lone is symbolic of the power of Connie and the rest of the women she takes under her wing to realize their own potential.These free thinking women are precisely what a threat to the utopia of Ruby is Women are a threat to this society because they stand in the way of progress Female babies can not carry on the holy family names of the town Female midwifes and child bearers stand between the successful births of healthy baby boys To the men of the town, this is everything Without the ability to continue the utopia, the dream dies Any woman who is able to amass too much power is a clear threat to their authoritarianism What if she doesn t want to bear children What if the 8 rock women gain so much power that they refuse to marry the men of the community, and instead go outside and inter marry with others All their dreams, all their fears, their purpose for living, the very idea of the town of Ruby, the outside threats, the unsubmissive women, the impurity, the non conformity, the strangeness of the other is all wrapped up in the women who have taken residence with Connie in the Convent This is why they must be stopped This is where the idea of purity and a way of life become important than love and acceptance This is the culmination of our narrative The formerly oppressed the citizens of Ruby have made the transformation into the oppressors The woman has become the victim.It is perhaps no mistake that our story revolves around the Civil Rights era For it is in this very movement that the fight for equality in the black community became patriarchal The idea of freedom for the race did not incorporate the equally important drive for women s rights That fight would have to come later It is symbolic and central to Morrison s novel that the women are left out of purifying the town of Ruby What the men have to say, and how they plan to execute their actions is no place for a woman s involvement In this, we can see the warning from Morrison that any fight for equality can become repressive in and of itself.This idea of Paradise therefore involves many different elements to Morrison and our characters Freedom is one common thread Self determination is another The ability to escape is a third However, what many of our characters struggle to grasp is the all consuming love that is so important for Paradise to become a reality Through the lens of love, everything becomes clear One s vision of a Higher Power yet anther Paradise theme is all about how love is incorporated Without love our world falls apart Love and its corollary, equality, is about embracing the differences we see in the other This can not be accomplished by a dogmatic adherence to principle, purity or structure It is not done by taking sides It is searching for the common ground that makes us all human.In the end, the road to Paradise is narrow However, it is not a narrow experience or way of thinking It is simple yet complex much like Morrison s novel Love is never easy, but in the end it is all we have Love is meaning, our very existence, the essence of what we describe as God , and the only way to Paradise. . Why did I read this book before reading Beloved and Jazz when it is supposed to complete the trilogy I m bummed by that I couldn t help it, I found the book on my shelf and decided to read it along withThe Bluest Eye. Then there I was, reading it and thinking, why was this book not titled, Beware the Furrow of His Brow, or Furrow of His brow, or, The Oven I won t spoil it, you will have to read it to see why I say that and you ll probably agree with me I did hear though, that Toni Morrison wanted to call it, War but her editors disagreed view spoiler The story A group of people settle in Oklahoma during the 1950s, forming an all black town they name Ruby after one of the founders who died on the way when she was refused medical attention because of the color of her skin.When it became clear she needed serious medical help, there was no way to provide it They drove her to Demby, then further to Middleton No colored people were allowed in the wards No regular doctors would attend them She had lost control, then consciousness by the time they got to the second hospital She died on the waiting room bench while the nurse tried to find a doctor to examine her When the brothers learned the nurse had been trying to reach a veterinarian, and they gathered their dead sister in their arms, their shoulders shook all the way home At first, Ruby was a conservative town, where the women wore no makeup and went to church regularly Later, the town faced intergenerational issues young people were getting harder to identify and when friends or relatives visited Ruby, they did not always attend services, as people used to do Then in came a mansion turned convent that later became housing for women running away from all kinds of issues Women the town considered wild women Oh my, change is hard sooo hard, what do we do about it, oh let s go on a shooting spree You get some idea about these men during their town meeting They don t like change, want things to remain the way they were decades before But if their psychotic move had not been introduced at the beginning of the book like Morrison does in her novels announce what s going to happen and then tell you later I would have been like, whaatt just happened You don t want people in your town so you come up with a plan to kill them off and hide the bodies Ok, then.Every single character had an issue in this book I didn t mind it Sure, you all have issues I get you through your backstory and I empathize At times I really do Then I forget about you once your other friends are introduced Wait, there you are again, interacting with one of the other characters But you still haven t redeemed yourself And then, whoosh, you re smashed by yet another character and I ve forgotten about you again wait, remind me, what was your background again Still no redemption This wasn t as lyrical as The Bluest Eye, but the plot between backstory was amazing I wanted from the characters though Examples of Consolata the nun who has an affair with a married man , Billie Delia the girl painted as the wild one because as a little girl, she wanted to ride a horse so badly, she dropped her panties and lifted her arms for an older man to help her on and Mavis the mother who kills her twins by leaving them unattended in a hot car These characters all had jaw dropping stories and it made you want to stay with them, hear their stories and see them move the plot forward through their narrations hide spoiler Paradise is one of my favourite words I believe it came first from an ancient word in Farsi that means only a park, which says something about the Iranian idea of a park, perhaps I think paradise is a place of welcome and peace and love, and in this book, I think that is what the founders of the town Ruby wanted to create, at a safe distance from racism and related violence vertical and horizontal But the folks in power are too rigid in defining and seeking to enforce their idea of paradise They create a closed society where some can live fully and well, and others are harmed, are rejected entirely, or feel desperate enough to walk for miles down the freezing road out, going nowhere but away At the furthest margin of the town, some of the outcasts find shelter in each other, work through trauma, care for each other almost without judgement or in any case, give care along with judgement and try to keep the hard verdicts to themselves and tentatively explore creative impulses The convent is full of pain, but its anarchy is loving, and healing happens there Yet the powerful men of Ruby cannot tolerate the outcasts even on their borders, and move to destroy them.Here, by the way, is a minister in Ruby chastising a couple at their wedding Love is divine only and difficult always If you think it is easy you are a fool If you think it is natural you are blind It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong You do not deserve love just because you want it You can only earn by practice and careful contemplation the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it if you are a good and dilligent student you may secure the right to show love Love is not a gift It is a diploma conferring certain privileges th at of expressing love and that of receiving it.Could any speech be carefully designed to terrorise people for and out of their feelings In this novel I recognise, I think, much of the cultural critique as well as appreciation articulated in the work of bell hooks and Audre Lorde The patriarchal and authoritarian flaws of Ruby emerge unevenly in contrast to, I think, what Audre Lorde calls the erotic, including but not at all limited to sensory and sexual pleasures Not only the traumatised exiles are subject to the violence of prejudice and narrowness inside it, but also many of those who stay Yet the town is in a state of change, examining and reworking its relationship to memory, to god, to the world outside Maybe the future will open with some intervention from the exiles, who are witches in the town s imagination, and thus absorb and refigure a potentially powerful patriarchal mythology.Billie Delia was perhaps the only one in town who was not puzzled by where the women were or concerned about how they disappeared She had another question When will they return When will they reappear, with blazing eyes, war paint and huge hands to rip up and stomp down this prison calling itself a town A town that had tried to ruin her grandfather, succeeded in swallowing her mother and almost broken her own self A backward noplace ruled by men whose power to control was out of control and who had the nerve to say who could live and who not and where who had seen in the lively, free, unarmed females the mutiny of the mares and so got rid of them She hoped with all her heart that the women were out there, darkly burnished, biding their time, brass metaling their nails, filing their incisors.But the novel doesn t end with this I think its answer to Ruby s violence is that paradise is in us between us in all the ways of love which is easy and natural and a gift It s heartening that one of the perpetrators, one of twins, realised he was in the wrong, and found the will to change Here is work to be done I ll confess that, though I m an adoring Morrison fan, I ve avoided three novels this one, Jazz, Tar Baby because of the less than stellar things I ve heard about them Not to mention I found Love tedious Well, I went in as a skeptic and I came out a believer.The first sentence, quoted again and again here on GR, really deserves another show They shot the white girl first It s so perfect, so emblematic of Morrison s ability to write both elegant, haunting, ornate sentences, and just as skillfully these jarring, monstrous and clipped phrases that seem so easily comprehensible, but end up being so much Not only is it a fantastic opening to a fantastic opening chapter the scene, revisited at the end of the novel, is horrifying and thrilling at once , it also forces the reader into an uncomfortable whodunnit exercise of trying to figure out which one is the white one for the rest of the novel an ultimately futile exercise, which makes it worthwhile rather than trite, and very fitting for Morrison s oeuvre The writing, of course, is on the whole impeccable I suppose I was engrossed with certain parts of the novel than others Ruby, Mavis, Lone, Consolata , but Morrison really only has a bad sentence once in a blue moon Everything that Morrison does well is here trauma, gendered violence, faith, genealogy, critiques of history, racism, racialization and how we map it onto bodies this really peaks in the Patricia section , coco Unlike Love, though, this didn t strike me as a novel that sounded like some hack trying to write a Morrison novel It genuinely worked through these nuanced topics in ways that I don t think her other novels have not for better or worse, just differently I m frankly still a bit stunned by it I think I ll have to return to this review It s no Beloved or Sula, but then what is Just a phenomenal story, an experimental way of handling it, and a beautiful way of telling behind it all. They shoot the white girl first With the rest they can take their time.So, famously, begins Toni Morrison s Paradise.But we never learn who the white girl is Apparently, Morrison said she started with race, and then erased it by never identifying who the white one is Does that bother youshe seems to ask implicitly Does it unsettle you Do you feel like you can t understand these characters unless you know which ones are white and which ones are black Are you not sure which ones you re supposed to or allowed to identify with until you know their raceIn an interview, Morrison said of her decision to not identify the white girl, Does it interfere with the story Does it make you uncomfortable Or do I succeed in making the characters so clear, their interior lives so distinctive, that you realize a it doesn t matter, and b , important, that when you know their race, it s the least amount of information to know about a person It s like Morrison is holding up a mirror and demanding you l0ok into it, and examine how important race is to you It s than a novel it s a psychoanalysis of the reader I think I know who it might be, based on one line a character says to her, but I m not going to say who it is, or look for details I think that defeats the whole point The writing in this book is nothing less than beautiful Check this out The venom is manageable now Shooting the first woman the white one has clarified it like butter the pure oil of hatred on top, its hardness stabilized below Outside, the mist is waist high It will turn silver soon and make grass rainbows low enough for children s play before the sun burns it off, exposing acres of bluestem and maybe witch tracks as well. It s not magical realism in the overt way of, say, Gabriel Garcia Marquez There s not explicitly magical, and there are arguably practical explanations for everything But there s an element that everything is not all it seems, and that these somewhat plausible explanations aren t actually the answer It s often a little difficult to follow, intentionally so Things are kept vague one character, for instance, is described only as him and you re supposed to guess from context clues which character he is that you ve already met He happens to be an identical twin, one of the two leaders of the all black community known as Ruby located a few miles from a haven for women known as the Convent used to be nuns saving Native American girls and forcing them to be Christians, but now is just a place where a handful or two of women live together Point of view can be disorienting, too There are chapters titled with names of women, either the ones in the Convent or in Ruby i.e Consolata, Pat, Seneca, Divine aka Pallas, Gigi but that doesn t mean that character will be the primary point of view for that chapter I found Pat a resident of Ruby to be the most interesting character She was the most challenging to those around her She refused to hop on board the us them mentality of the Ruby residents for instance, light skinned black residents of Ruby were discriminated against and considered racially impure despite the fact that Ruby was founded to escape racism It s the women who make this book The men manufacture divisions and hierarchies, and the women resist them and create communities In this book, women are connecting with and supporting one another, in spite of themselves, in spite of all the reasons they have not to Wives and mistresses, black and white, light skinned and dark skinned, outsider and insider All of them defiant BOOK RIOT S READ HARDER CHALLENGE 13 An Oprah Book Club selection They shoot the white girl first, but the rest they can take their time No need to hurry out here They are 17 miles from a town which has 90 miles between it and any other Hiding places will be plentiful in the convent, but there is time, and the day has just begun They are nine Over twice the number of the women, they are obliged to stampede or kill, and they have the paraphernalia for either requirement rope, a palm leaf cross, handcuffs, mace, and sunglasses, along with clean, handsome guns Toni Morrison, ParadiseIn my opinion Paradise is one of the most complex books Morrison has written, and possibly the one I ve had the most trouble reviewing This is my second reading of it and I feel I need at least a couple before I truly get it I m happy with what I gleaned from it this time around, but to put it all down in words is still difficult.Paradise tells the story of the black town of Ruby, Oklahoma, founded by former slaves who find themselves rejected both by white people but also by lighter skinned black people Us free like them was slave like them What for this difference Ruby was created to insulate the townspeople as much as possible from Out There, the outside world Out There where your children were sport, your women quarry, and where your very person could be annulled Since reading Zora Neale Hurston s autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, I ve been curious about the founding of black towns.Through this fictionalized account I was able to think about how black towns were formed the why is easy enough to guess at , but it s also clear to see that towns like these, often founded with high hopes, are definitely not utopian Ruby ends up becoming quite insular and patriarchal, and full of strife not only due to inter generational quarreling, but also because of the women in the Convent Throughout the book independent women, such as the women living in the Convent, are met with ridicule, scorn, hatred, and fear The Convent is a haven, a refuge for women who have experienced trauma and hardships in their lives, and a place where women are enterprising and self sufficient The Convent women actually benefit the town, but all that labour and kindness is taken for granted and unappreciated in the end It s practically a witch hunt where strong, independent women are the scapegoats when things aren t going well So, Lone thought, the fangs and the tail are somewhere else Out yonder all slithery in a house full of women Not women locked safely away from men but worse, women who chose themselves for company, which is to say not a convent but a coven Morrison is one of the best at illuminating different aspects of African American history with human stories This always helps me appreciate the history even and also think of the people involved, not just the bare facts and figures that we are often fed when we are taught history, so much so that we often feel removed from it Definitely recommended for those who enjoy challenging reads `Pdf ⇯ Paradise ☙ They Shoot The White Girl First With The Rest They Can Take Their Time So Begins This Visionary Work From A Storyteller Toni Morrison S First Novel Since She Was Awarded The Nobel Prize For Literature, Paradise Opens With A Horrifying Scene Of Mass Violence And Chronicles Its Genesis In An All Black Small Town In Rural Oklahoma Founded By The Descendants Of Freed Slaves And Survivors In Exodus From A Hostile World, The Patriarchal Community Of Ruby Is Built On Righteousness, Rigidly Enforced Moral Law, And Fear But Seventeen Miles Away, Another Group Of Exiles Has Gathered In A Promised Land Of Their Own And It Is Upon These Women In Flight From Death And Despair That Nine Male Citizens Of Ruby Will Lay Their Pain, Their Terror, And Their Murderous RageIn Prose That Soars With The Rhythms, Grandeur, And Tragic Arc Of An Epic Poem, Toni Morrison Challenges Our Most Fiercely Held Beliefs As She Weaves Folklore And History, Memory And Myth Into An Unforgettable Meditation Of Race, Religion, Gender, And A Far Off Past That Is Ever Present