This course delves into three germinal works that explore the racial conundrum of our United States. Bold, innovative, canonical—these are books by authors who refuse easy answers and trendy solutions. Rather, they shine the light of their respective talents on the essential questions as to why skin color exerts such a huge, destructive shadow on American culture.
We’ll begin with The Bluest Eye (March 22), the virtuosic debut of Nobel- and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, the book poses commanding questions about race, class, and gender.
On April 19 we’ll discuss Ta-Nehisi Coates’s National Book Award-winning memoir Between the World and Me, which Morrison calls “required reading.” This #1 New York Times bestseller is the winner of numerous awards, and Coates, a correspondent for The Atlantic and a MacArthur fellow, is often referred to as “the single best writer on the subject of race in the US.”
Claudia Rankine's poetry collection, Citizen: An American Lyric (May 17) was named One of the Best Books of 2015 by The New Yorker, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, NPR and others. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, PEN Open Book Award, NAACP Image Award, and a finalist for many other prizes, Citizen has been called “groundbreaking,” “audacious,” and “a masterwork” that “throws a Molotov cocktail at the notion that reduction of injustice is the same as freedom.”
Required: Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (any edition), Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 2015), Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014).
Toni McNaron is professor emerita of English at the University of Minnesota where she was the recipient of five awards for outstanding teaching, including the College of Continuing Education’s Distinguished Educator Award.
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