Toni Morrison: A Teaching and Learning Resource Collection

"Home" (2012): Overview and Links

Home, published in 2012, is Toni Morrison's tenth novel. Some reviewers appreciated its crisp, minimalist style, though some felt that its symbolism and structure were distractingly unsubtle. 

With its emphasis on the challenges faced by African American military veteransHome might be linked to other Morrison novels that deal with this topic, especially Sula and Paradise. The novel is centered around Frank Money and his sister Ycidra Money ("Cee"), and is set in the 1950s. The story begins in Seattle, where Frank has been living precariously after his discharge from military service in the Korean war. He appears to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder linked to violence he had witnessed, and in some cases participated in, in battle; at the beginning of the novel, he has been briefly institutionalized after being arrested for a breakdown that is never described in the text. 

Home also explores a range of other themes, some of them familiar to readers familiar with Morrison's broader body of work, including the gap between north and south in the Black experience, the lingering generational impacts of racialized violence, and the implications of harm done to others, particular violence enacted by men against women. 

A theme familiar to readers of Song of Solomon and Tar Baby might be the novel's titular emphasis on the meaning of 'home' for Black families who experienced dislocation and dispossession after leaving the rural deep south for economic opportunities in the north. In several Morrison novels, the Black experience in predominantly white spaces leads to mental and physical breakdowns; a return to all-Black towns in the south has a reparative possibility. In the case of the Money siblings, that deep south carries with it an experience of racialized expulsion (their family was driven out of Texas by a mob and settled in Lotus, Georgia). The siblings' parents also did back-breaking labor in cotton fields, and both died young, leaving the children to be raised partly by unloving grandparents. And the siblings were both witness to a racialized murder, which is only fully explained near the end of the novel. 

For both Frank and Cee, returning home to rural Georgia is the only path that might lead to the possibility of survival after the many traumas they experience elsewhere. For Frank, those traumas are mainly linked to experiences in Korea; for Cee, her worst experience is at the hand of a white, Eugenics-supporting abortion doctor in Atlanta, who experiments on her body and nearly kills her. (The emphasis on abortion in particular is somewhat reminiscent of passages in Tar Baby and Paradise.) For both siblings, the enfolding embrace of an all-Black community -- even with its flaws, its poverty, and the legacy of racialized violence -- is the best and only path out of misery. 

Finally, it should be mentioned -- without saying too much about the details of the plot of the novel -- that the sexual abuse of children plays an important role in Home. In that respect, it has something in common with Morrison's final novel, God Help the Child

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