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The Origin of Others


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About the Author

Toni Morrison (1931-2019) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, a National Book Critics Circle Award, and a Pulitzer Prize. The author of numerous critically acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction, she was the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus, at Princeton University. Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of The Beautiful Struggle and Between the World and Me.


A slim volume that contains multitudes. It can be read in one sitting, yet it's a book that readers will likely return to frequently for its conceptual richness, catholic knowledge, and political imagination...Literature, Morrison argues throughout The Origin of Others, is central to shaping social imaginations of hate, and conversely, literature has the potential to help us envision better worlds and better futures...Morrison deftly moves between literary analysis, personal memoir, historical research, critical theory, and politics. And moreover, she does so with incredible clarity and grace. Her intended audience is not specialists in narrow fields, but wide and broad publics...We live in a regime in which nation-states can blind us from seeing the tragedies and genocides unfolding beyond our artificial borders. Toni Morrison's latest book challenges us in subtle and profound ways to see beyond such artifices. We need literary fictions to see the many violences of our political fictions.-- (11/02/2017)
For those who want to understand better the process of inventing others, its literary past, and the tendency in us all to dismiss others clamoring for a sense of belonging, The Origin of Others is a must-read. Morrison's fans will appreciate her hauntingly clear reading of the times, even while she remains true to her literary aesthetic. New readers can look to this text as a foray into the mind of one of the greatest thinkers of our time. With the same revolutionary simplicity as Martin Buber's I and Thou, Morrison reminds us once again that whatever can be said of the self is always determined by how one stands in relation to the other.-- (10/11/2017)
If you've ever wanted to take a peek into the brilliant mind of Toni Morrison, look no further than her latest book. In The Origin of Others, Morrison dissects all the thematic elements that frequent her work, and sheds light on what inspires her and what keeps her up at night. Based on her Norton Lectures, the renowned novelist delves deep into how literature has shaped society's perceptions of race over the years, as well as how some of her most beloved books came to be. Plus, it has a brilliant introduction from Ta-Nehisi Coates!-- (09/18/2017)
It is hard not to read Toni Morrison's The Origin of Others in the light of recent disturbing political developments in the U.S... Morrison considers the fetishization of skin color and the questions posed by our era of mass migration, and offers elegant reminders of some well-known but still unpalatable facts... She shows how a single word choice in a Hemingway novel can exploit and fortify any number of racialized fetishes and revulsions, and she also explains, with a dispassionate attention to technique, why and how Hemingway made such choices as a writer, the useful short cuts they allowed him to take for the purposes of narrative and character and mood.-- (10/18/2017)
It is hard not to want more than an afternoon with her incisive mind...Her essays are richly embellished with anecdote and memory, but grounded in literary analysis. Morrison looks to literature as a potent site of prejudicial tuition...Drafted in the months before Brexit and Donald Trump, it is hard not to see The Origin of Others as politically prescient.-- (09/09/2017)
Morrison's new book of essays, The Origin of Others, shows that the sick, sad world in which her novels are set is an old one--one that she yearns to lean out of, one we're falling right back into instead. The Origin of Others is, at once, a critique, memoir, and writer's notebook; the Nobel Prize-winning author explicates the observations and inspirations behind some of her most prized novels. The book draws from her Norton Lectures, in which she discusses race, borders, history, and other literary heavyweights such as Flannery O'Connor and Ernest Hemingway. Readers could consider this book a companion to her Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, if they want a pellucid look at the racial minefield throughout American literature.-- (09/14/2017)
Pulitzer- and Nobel Prize-winning novelist Morrison analyzes the language of race and racism and the classification of people into dehumanizing racial categories in American culture... Lyrically written and intelligently argued, this book is on par with Morrison's Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination and The Black Book.--Publishers Weekly (starred review) (07/24/2017)
The autobiographical moments in The Origin of Others are the most interesting paragraphs within this book. Peeking into the life of this Pulitzer Prize-winning author's personal life to understand her concerns for black America, provides a logical solution in shaping black identity--control our narrative... The Origin of Others moved me to be more conscious of what type of language and behavior I, a hip-hop journalist and aspiring historian, put into the world.-- (11/20/2017)
There is another aspect to otherness: how we cope, survive, rationalize and discriminate by creating, in our minds and habits, others. No book addresses this more profoundly than Toni Morrison's small book of essays, The Origin of Others...It's Trumpism that makes her insights essential now...Morrison addresses the 'romancing of slavery' in our literature and history. She looks carefully at what 'being or becoming a stranger' means in American life. She analyzes our fetishes with darkness, our preoccupations with blackness and the tropes we perpetuate regarding Africa: menace, depravity, incomprehensibility. This is not easy, comforting reading for a Christmas morning, but it is a book we need to be talking about.-- (12/11/2017)
Toni Morrison is the one of the great contemporary analysts of race and identity...Here she develops in a more concerted way than we find in her earlier work the means by which racist ideologies obliterate the possibility of knowing others, and stifle the chance we are afforded to gain knowledge of ourselves...Morrison draws on a series of episodes from [America's] literature and history, and examines them in relation to salient moments from her own life. The resulting work is transformative, exhilarating, distressing. And acutely and urgently necessary...The Origin of Others is full of insights. They are made all the more persuasive by Morrison's elegant, plangent prose, and by her refusal to exclude herself from those mythologies of otherness of which we are all the unhappy legatees. To read this wise, probing and inspiring book is to acquaint yourself with a writer who is a foe of that inheritance and a vital friend of the human project.-- (10/22/2017)
Morrison has much to say about events that are not only on the American mind, but the global one, as she ranges over nostalgic returns to slavery, the pervasive use of racial epithets by white writers, and the forced migration of an unprecedented number of displaced people...In The Origin of Others, Morrison revisits ways of reading American literature, but also expands her scope to ponder the meaning of race itself, and how it lodges itself in both individual and collective imaginaries.--Yogita Goyal"Los Angeles Review of Books" (02/07/2018)
The Origin of Others gives readers around the world a chance to take a peek inside the insightful mind of one of America's most celebrated novelists... Equal parts challenging and engaging, reading The Origin of Others is like learning from the literary legend herself.--Sadie Trombetta"Bustle" (10/13/2017)
[Morrison] traces through American literature patterns of thought and behavior that subtly code who belongs and who doesn't, who is accepted in and who is cast out as 'Other.' ...The Origin of Others combines Toni Morrison's accustomed eloquence with meaning for our times as citizens of the world.--Nell Irvin Painter"New Republic" (10/11/2017)
In a series of essays that provides equally unique insights into American literary history and Morrison's own mind, The Origin of Others explores how otherness, particularly racial difference, is socially constructed, and the ways Morrison has always worked to explore and confound that construct through her writing.--Emily Lever"The Literary Show Project" (10/21/2017)
The Origin of Others is a must read.--Tara Block"PopSugar" (08/26/2017)
Every literature lover who dreams of studying with Toni Morrison will devour The Origin of Others, a new collection of her Harvard lectures on race, literature, and otherness.--Angela Carone"San Diego Magazine" (09/08/2017)
From legendary writer and thinker Toni Morrison comes a book that deals with one of the thorniest topics of our time: race...What is race? What motivates us to construct otherness? What makes us so afraid of one another? Probing, brilliant, and beautifully rendered, The Origin of Others is destined to become one of the major sociological texts of our time.--Elizabeth Kiefer"Refinery29" (09/01/2017)

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