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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.
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).
In that Foreword, Morrison describes specific African American history and also the larger US history and how different groups that make up US culture fit into that.
There is a piece of her discussion of the first lines in "Unspeakable Things Unspoken" that is not included in this Foreword to which I’d like you to pay attention.
To review: Morrison begins "Unspeakable Things" by talking about literary canons. It is somehow separate from them and they from it, and …
She observes that “There is something called American literature that, according to conventional wisdom, is certainly not Chicano literature, or Afro-American literature, or Asian-American, or Native American, or . this separate confinement, be it breached or endorsed, is the subject of a large part of these debates.” (1) In many ways, Morrison’s fiction has acted as a bridge between Black writing and the American literature that for years was taught only as works by dead white male authors.
And then comes a part that I think is striking: "The composition of red, white, and blue in the opening scene provides the national canvas/flag upon which the narrative works and against which the lives of these black people must be seen…." As you remember, the opening scene has the red petals that the girls have made that are fluttering all over the white snow and also the image of the blue wings. That's very intentional, the red, white, and blue imagery.
Morrison goes on to state that this national canvas—this ideology of American patriotism, and mainstream conceptions of what it means to be American—“must not overwhelm the enterprise the novel is engaged in.
Blending the past with the present and the future, this bestowing the name of an ancestor or a historically significant name respects and honors the past members of the family but also illustrates the traits, hopes, and dreams that the parents are trying to pass on to the child for the future. But when I got married and went to get my birth certificate, it was spelled Gladdie. There’s your individual family history but also this larger history. Participant: Your name extends your tiny self to larger historical and social forces. I thought the way the name was shortened was interesting. Giselle Anatol: Ethnicity and culture are either explicit or hidden. We'll talk more about that when we discuss this book and about names that are changed as people move through the system.
Is there anything else a name can tell us about a person or other ways that names function? Gladys is a very old name, so all the people I know who are named Gladys are either very old or dead. Back in that time, you could change your name to the correct spelling. Giselle Anatol: We observe here how the name Gladys is supposed to mean something specific—a connection to your aunt—as it was transferred to you, but your later reading of the misspelling of it opens it up and explodes it in different ways. Participant: My first name's Linda, which means pretty. The history of my name resonates with a lot of the stories that you are telling.