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Home by Toni Morrison
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One of my strongest reading memories is of discovering Toni Morrison the summer before my senior year of high school. I spent that summer in Wildwood waiting tables by night and tearing through Beloved, Tar Baby, the Bluest Eyes, and Song of Solomon by day.

Her writing was one of the forces that ushered me into adulthood and it's interesting to think about the ways Toni Morrison helped shape the person I am today. I completely surrendered myself to those books in way that was as much a testament to Toni Morrison's exquisite language and powerful storytelling as to my own openness as a young reader. Reading those books was an out-of-body experience. Having lived through the traumas of her characters, I felt like a survivor myself.

Her work helped me learn empathy, a skill that can only be trained through reading great fiction. It made me think about what it means to be disenfranchised for, though it seems impossible, the first time. Her work also provided the opportunity to explore concepts of womanhood. As a teenager eager to find ways to relate to the characters in her powerfully rendered worlds, I learned to identify the forms of violence, abuse, and victimization of women in my own.

Reading Home as an adult was a very different, but nearly as informative, experience. The story is simple; Frank Money, a nearly broken Korean War veteran, has to find the strength required to rescue his beloved sister. The telling is subtle and meditative. My reaction was satisfyingly cerebral as I dutifully considered the questions Morrison posed. What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be an adult? How does one survive the unfairly distributed traumas of life? What is required to repair ourselves and our communities? What is necessary for each man to finally find himself at home in this world?

There was no out-of-body reading experience this time, but Morrison's careful articulation of those important questions through this work is fiction is more evidence of her powerful storytelling. Her work still has the power to reveal truths, teach empathy, and transform readers.
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