The other day, in the British Lit I class I'm teaching this semester, we discussed Thomas More's Utopia. I provided the students a good-sized list of popular utopian and dystopian novels, books like Johnson's Rasselas, Huxley's Brave New World, Orwell's 1984, Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, and Lowry's The Giver. Not everyone had read all of the books on the list, of course, but between all of us, we'd read most of them. But nobody in the class had read Toni Morrison's Paradise, the last novel on the list. So, a few of us decided to read it and get together and discuss the book. I started reading it this weekend, and I was hooked from the first sentence: "They shoot the white girl first." I mean, how can you not be hooked by an opening like that?
"Nobel laureate Morrison creates another richly told tale that grapples with her ongoing, central concerns: women's lives and the African American experience. Morrison has created a long list of characters for this story that takes place in the all-black town of Ruby, Oklahoma, population 360, which was founded by freed slaves. In what could be seen as an attempt to create some of the same mysticism that was present in many of her previous works, Morrison alludes to Ruby's founding citizens, now ghosts, and only minimally focuses on the present generations that have let the founding principles of Ruby's forebears deteriorate. Paradise is an examination of the title itself and deliberately builds into a plot that is unexpected and explosive. This is Morrison's first novel since her 1993 Jazz, and it is well worth the wait."