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Chapter Eight: Paradise and Its Mothers
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“For Paradise, I had heard this story in Brazil. There was a school, a convent for black nuns—young girls—and they were found to be secretly practicing candomble [an African Brazilian religion based on the anima, or soul, of nature] in the basement. The story was that the police shot all of these girls, when they were found not doing the Catholic thing. I saw them in my mind running away from the convent, running through the fields, running away from the bullets, running from men … so I cast it as a question: Who would shoot a bunch of women and why?”
Morrison continued, after telling interviewer Pam Houston this story in a 2003 interview, “Usually there is a ‘what if’ that might resolve the narrative, but the narrative is less interesting to me than the architecture, the language, all the other things that I can bring into the so-called story.” (AARP 123).
Here Morrison intrigues the reader once more—since her novel Paradise has nothing to do with Brazilian nuns. Instead, she tempts a kind of oblique understanding: the emotions of loss and waste that her image of innocent girls running for their lives provokes transfers easily to the scarifying opening of Paradise. “They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time.” (Paradise 3). It is a cascade of ironies—the title proclaiming that “paradise” could be thought of primarily as a murder...
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