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Chapter One: Mothers at Random in The Bluest Eye
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“My mother tells me that our landlord wanted to get us out of an apartment in which we lived—my mother, my father, myself and my sister—and he set the place on fire while we were in it. It was during the Depression… a lot of sharing of food, a lot of difficulty and desperation about work.” (Bigsby interview 250).
In attempting to write her first novel, Toni Morrison had developed opinions about what a Black woman writer’s task should be. Although she read widely, and had earned her English major and classics minor at Howard University (and had then earned her MA in English at Cornell University, writing a thesis on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!), she was prepared to set out only hesitantly on her own course. She knew she would not become a second Richard Wright. She thought, probably, she would not emulate Ralph Ellison. What she consistently said about those prominent African American men was that they sounded as if they were writing for white readers. As she said in the Bigsby interview, “The words of Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin … were not talking to me. There was some editorial address going on as though they were clarifying something for other men, or maybe white people …. I know now that what I was longing for was a female presence, not a female character but a female voice. There was an attitude...
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