I had forgotten how much I love Toni Morrison until a few months ago. My boyfriend and I were comparing the books we loved and Jazz always stands out to me as one of my all time favorites. I recall devouring and savoring it in equal turns in college. I just finished re-reading it last week and it was just as amazing as ever. Ms. Morrison is a master. The language is lush. Her descriptions are so precise you can see the room Violet sits in and feel the hum of the Harlem street. I am eagerly awaiting her new novel’s release in April and a chance to see her at the Philadelphia Free Library, so I was thrilled to see a short story from Ms. Morrison in the New Yorker.
“Sweetness” appears to be an excerpt from her upcoming novel, God Help the Child, and even though I didn’t think it possible, reading it made me even more eager for its release. It is a quick read and I recommend you take five to ten minutes to read it – even my momma friends might be able to sneak that in. The story introduces Sweetness and her blue-black daughter, named Lula Ann at birth. Sweetness is reflecting on her surprise at her daughter’s dark skin as well as her rejection of Lula Ann and what she felt was her responsibility to toughen her up in preparation for the racist world she was born into.
“I wasn’t a bad mother, you have to know that, but I may have done some hurtful things to my only child because I had to protect her. Had to. All because of skin privileges. At first I couldn’t see past all that black to know who she was and just plain love her. But I do. I really do. I think she understands now. I think so.”
Sweetness’ desire for her daughter to accept her and understand her likely mirrors the desire Lula Ann felt throughout her life. All children want is to be loved, just as all humans want to be loved.
“Taught me a lesson I should have known all along. What you do to children matters. And they might never forget.’