Taking a close look at all the key male figures in Toni
Morrison's eight novels, this book explores
Morrison's admitted, but critically neglected, interest in
the relationships between African American men and women and the
"axes" on which these relationships turn. Most Morrison scholarship
deals with her female characters. Can't I Love What I
Criticize? offers a response to this imbalance and to
Morrison's call for more work on men, who remain, in her
words, "outside of that little community value thing."
The book also considers the barriers between black men and women
thrown up by their participation in a larger, historically racist
culture of competition, ownership, sexual repression, and fixed
ideals about physical beauty and romantic love. Black women,
Morrison says, bear their crosses "extremely well," and black men,
although they have been routinely emasculated by "white men,
period," have managed to maintain a feisty "magic" that everybody
wants but nobody else has.
Understanding Morrison's treatment of her male
characters, says Susan Mayberry, becomes crucial to grasping her
success in "countering the damage done by a spectrum of sometimes
misguided isms"--including white American feminism.
Morrison's version of masculinity suggests that black men
have "successfully retained their special vitality in spite of
white male resistance" and that "their connections to black women
have saved their lives." To single out her men is not to negate the
preeminence of her women; rather, it is to recognize the
interconnectedness and balance between them.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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