Giselle Liza Anatol is an associate professor of English at the University of Kansas.
Her areas of specialization include contemporary Caribbean women's literature, African American literature, and children's literature.
She was a Conger-Gabel Teaching Professor from 2001-2004.
As I mentioned in the session, the stories that Morrison is telling are not easy stories—she confesses in that 2001 CSPAN interview that she is taking you for a “bumpy ride”: the novels have difficult history and subjects.
It is a composition of color that heralds Milkman's birth, protects his youth, hides its purpose, and through which he must burst (through blue Buicks, red tulips in his waking dream, and his sisters’ white stockings, ribbons, and gloves) before discovering that the gold of his search is really Pilate’s yellow orange and the glittering metal of the box in her ear." There’s a lot going on there!
She uses those colors, thrown in here and there, to vividly describe scenes, but also as a part of this larger project that she's engaged in—a critique of American society and the ways that African Americans are asked to participate but are also excluded in different ways. Participant: It seems like every third or fourth girl born in the Midwest in 1962 must have been named Susan. Giselle Anatol: So there is the idea of a generation and culture.The next paragraph is when she says, "These spaces, which I'm filling in, and can fill in because they were planned, can conceivably be filled in with other significances.” She's talking about what her intent was and what she was thinking of as she was writing, but also the room and freedom she allows for the reader to move about in the narrative, and think, and ponder, make connections, and draw her own conclusions. Participant: I think it's the opposite of what's happening in .There really is this wide open sense of what individual readers will bring to the narrative. The choices of names speaks to a particular time, but also to social conventions.is very concerned with the loss of these traditions and the desire to bring them back. Think about Ruth’s relationship with Macon, the opportunities available to First Corinthians and Magdalene, Lena’s criticism of Milkman and the privilege that accompanies his “hog’s gut” (215), and Hagar’s relationship with Milkman and how this affects her sense of worth.There are many other examples, of course; these are just a few to get you started. That would include the forced migration of enslaved peoples from Africa to the Americas during the slave trade and also voluntary migration in terms of escapes from slavery and the huge mass of people who moved from the South to northern cities during the Great Migration.In the Foreword to , Morrison talks a lot about migration.(Much of the Foreword comes from the assigned sections of "Unspeakable Things Unspoken," by the way.) 5) American Citizenship.Those issues of inclusion and exclusion get brought up numerous times in all of Morrison’s work.2) African American Vernacular Traditions: oral histories, folktales, songs and ring rhymes, riddles, the dozens (a verbal competition of insults).She wants you to confront them with your eyes open.The idea of crossing over a threshold into this space of awareness is addressed in the e-reading article "Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature." As I mentioned earlier, although the essay is complicated in places, it is well worthwhile for a better understanding of how Morrison views American Literature and her place within it.