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Tar Baby by Toni Morrison

Tar Baby (1981)

by Toni Morrison

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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This novel portrays a love affair between Jadine and Son, two Black Americans from very different worlds. Jadine is a beautiful Sorbonne graduate and fashion model who has been sponsored into wealth and privilege by the Streets, a wealthy White family who employ Jadine's aunt and uncle as domestic servants. Son is an impoverished, strong-minded man who washes up at the Streets' estate on a Caribbean island. As Jadine and Son come together, their affair ruptures the illusions and self-deceptions that held together the world and relationships at the estate. They travel back to the U.S. to search for somewhere they can both be at home, and find that their homes hold poison for each other. The struggle of Jadine and Son reveals the pain, struggle, and compromises confronting Black Americans seeking to live and love with integrity in the United States.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
30. Tar Baby (Audio) by Toni Morrison, read by Desiree Coleman (1981, 11:26, ~320 pages in paperback, listened May 8-20)

This came after [Song of Solomon] and before [Beloved], possibly Morrison's best works, both very ambitious, but in different kinds of ways. [Beloved] took a lot more out of Morrison than any of her previous much more angry books. This one is much more like [Song of Solomon], although not quite as good. But, don't shy away. It's an ambitious work, complicated, angry, unsettling without ever letting that lead you away from the text.

It's not what Morrison says that is unsettling, I mean it's not the stories and their odd and less than appetizing outcomes. Her stories are fun, and the way she mixes in possibly magical characters and actually magical living landscapes just make things a lot more fun. What is unsettling is the meaning behind the stories. It's never clear what she means, but the more you think about the story the more bothered you are likely to be by it. And her endings, they just leave you thinking and thinking.

Anyway, although this took me a bit to get into, I enjoyed it and it's wandering into black history, culture clashes and a very curious relationship between a pair of black servants, who are married, and their white employers who happen to own practically the entire (living) island are staying on. Things get a little more interesting when an black island stowaway is found in a bedroom closet. ( )
1 vote dchaikin | Jun 24, 2015 |
Afrocentric book with fairy tale like quality. About white/black and female/male relationships. It's about 6 people; 1 white couple and a black couple that work for them and 2 other blacks on a plantation in Port of France. Interesting especially the fairy tale like qualities. Might read again. ( )
  KamGeb | Apr 4, 2015 |
Kind of a Six Degrees of Separation, but in reverse. The same concept of a young man of mysterious origins coming into the lives of an affluent family and changing everything. But Son changes things for blacks as well as whites. This young man is thought to be a thief and a potential rapist, but he turns out to be a good man. Neither he nor Jade really know themselves though, and through this lack of self-knowledge, they grow apart. Although the ending left their fates unknown, I somehow felt that they would once again find each other. What then, I don't know. The theme of black and white was complicated by the "yalla" Jade. She could enter either world, but in the end, she had no idea exactly where it was that she belonged. Son had no better idea upon realization that Eloe was a dream of things past. He, too, soon discovered that he didn't belong in that world. I suppose that's why I felt they would find each other again. They may not have belonged in the worlds they created for themselves, but they seemed to belong in the world they created together. A lovely book. I truly enjoy Toni Morrison's colorful, full-bodied writing. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 24, 2014 |
Tar Baby was really good, but somehow less satisfying to me than most other Toni Morrison books. It seems to be almost contemporary, unlike all the others I've read so far which were mostly historical, with only Love having a part in the 1990s. So it takes place in the seventies in Dominique and Manhattan and in rural Alabama. Mostly in Dominique in the Caribbean. It involves a rich white couple, their servants and a prowler. The prowler is caught and becomes enmeshed in the community and highlights the contrast between the rich and poor somehow by his very existence, which makes it very uncomfortable since they all usually ignore all the messy implications of their situation. The question of respecting the servants as human beings or even thinking of them as human beings is brought forward. Also the veneer of smooth perfection the rich people usually maintain around their affairs is broken and the extremely messy truth creeps out about just how not perfect they really are. This exposure almost breaks them, may in fact have broken them, as the end leaves many questions unanswered. The writing is beautiful, but felt more uneven than some of her books. I missed a formal structure, like dividing it into clear parts or something. It seemed like that would have helped. But perhaps the nature of the tar baby is that messy, and should not be constrained in a formal way? ( )
1 vote kylekatz | Sep 28, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Toni Morrisonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coleman, DesireeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vink, NettieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For it hath been declared
unto me of you, my brethren, by them
which are of the house of
Chloe, that there are
contentions among you.

I Corinthians 1:11
Mrs. Caroline Smith
Mrs. Millie McTeer
Mrs. Ardelia Willis
Mrs. Ramah Wofford
Mrs. Lois Brooks
-- and each of their sisters, all of whom knew their true and ancient properties
First words
He believed he was safe.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0452264790, Paperback)

A magnificent novel from the Nobel Prize-winning author of Beloved. Morrison probes deeply and sensitively into the realtionships between blacks and whites, blacks and blacks, and women and men, in this raw, emotionally intense narrative set in a rainforest paradise.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:29 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A beautiful African-American woman of privilege finds herself attracted to the kind of man she has dreaded since childhood: uneducated, violent, and contemptuous of her.

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