Sula by Toni Morrison

April 29, 2016
Sula, Toni Morrison, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Plume on April 5th 2002 (first 1973)
Format Read: Paperback (192 pages)
Genre: Adult/ Historical Fiction/ African American Experiences
Series: Standalone
Source: Purchased
This rich and moving novel traces the lives of two black heroines from their close-knit childhood in a small Ohio town, through their sharply divergent paths of womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation.

Nel Wright has chosen to stay in the place where she was born, to marry, raise a family, and become a pillar of the black community. Sula Peace has rejected the life Nel has embraced, escaping to college, and submerging herself in city life. When she returns to her roots, it is as a rebel and a wanton seductress. Eventually, both women must face the consequences of their choices. Together, they create an unforgettable portrait of what it means and costs to be a black woman in America.


When I first read this in high school, I loved it but I didn't have the life experience to understand it, that I do now. This book connects with me, because the culture is familiar. Growing up in a black family,  knowing how burdensome and destructive racism is, this broke my heart all over again. The story focuses on Nel and Sula, two best friends who lose each other and have to deal with the after. Friendship between women, is an undervalued part of the black community, and is usually judged  by the viral images of black women fighting, all over social media. Morrison manages to describe friendship, while explaining the consequences of living in and getting by in the Bottom.
"He knew the smell of death and was terrified of it, for he could not anticipate it. It was not death or dying that frightened him, but the unexpectedness of both. "
The Bottom is the community where this book takes place. Its peculiarity and the individuals who occupy it, illustrate how broken people can find a way to persevere. The community itself was above attacking people, even if they saw them as evil, that's why Sula is tolerated. Sula is viewed as evil because she rejects family life and the morals that the community relies on. Sula's selfishness can be interpreted in many ways, but I read it as an alternative way of survival. Dealing with a world that tells you over and over your not important, can manifest in many ways. Morrison's poetic writing style and metaphors, makes me swoon every time I read it.

I would recommend this book to everyone, because it honestly portrays the feelings of black life. Sula focuses on our notions of what we accept as feminine, as good, as womanhood and why.  It manages to discuss racism, feelings of inadequacy, post traumatic stress disorder and how a community can be a living organism. It's descriptions of despair, and loneliness are a visceral experience. This is powerful storytelling, and I am overjoyed that it exists. It reminds everyone who reads it, that black people have a unique and important cultural experience.


Toni Morrison (born Chloe Anthony Wofford), is an American author, editor, and professor who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature for being an author "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality."

Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed African American characters; among the best known are her novels The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. In 2001 she was named one of "The 30 Most Powerful Women in America" by Ladies' Home Journal.

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