Recitatif

Author

Morrison, Toni

Genre

Short Story

Overview

Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison's powerful short story about the relationship between two girls over many years traces the subtle differences that both drive and separate us. Some of the social class tensions Morrison addresses spring from everyday life, others are apparent only because there are no racial labels in this story. What are the sources of the characters’ troubled relationship? What do those struggles have to do with race or social class? And, what, if anything, do our answers to these questions suggest to us about the struggles of building bridges across divides in America? Morrison's quick, powerful narrative style and hard-hitting ending draw the reader in as she examines varying shades of skin tone, perception, and interpretation.

Full Text*

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Source

Leaving Home, eds. Rochman and McCampbell (International Creative Management, Inc., 1983)

Type

Reading

Themes

Connection and RelationshipDiversity and DifferenceIdentity and CommunityKnowledge and UncertaintyRace, Ethnicity and Culture

Big Questions

What causes division between people and groups?What kinds of relationships matter the most?What makes it possible for us to connect to others? What gets in the way?How do we connect with those who are different from us?How do we learn to have dialogue across difference? What does it look like?Is difference a problem, an opportunity, a challenge or a gift?What assumptions do we make about others?How has my family or background shaped who I am?Is your sense of individual identity ever in conflict with your community? How?What do we know for sure? What do we not know?What is the value of uncertainty?How does race affect our relations to others?What assumptions do we make about people from different races, ethnicities and cultures?

Publication

Civically Engaged Reader

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. When they meet at St. Bonny’s, how are Twyla and Roberta able to connect?
  2. What role do Twyla and Roberta’s mothers play in the story? Why are they constantly asking about the other’s mother?
  3. Which characters are white and which characters are black? Does it make a difference to know or not know?
  4. Why does the memory of Maggie become more important as the story progresses? Why does Twyla have a difficult time remembering what happened? Why does Roberta invent memories of her?
  5. What are the sources of the conflict in Twyla and Roberta’s relationship? Do they come only from racial and social differences?
  6. In what ways does the story have a positive view of difference? In what ways does it have a negative view?
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