Those issues of inclusion and exclusion get brought up numerous times in all of Morrison’s work.
2) African American Vernacular Traditions: oral histories, folktales, songs and ring rhymes, riddles, the dozens (a verbal competition of insults).
It is a composition of color that heralds Milkman's birth, protects his youth, hides its purpose, and through which he must burst (through blue Buicks, red tulips in his waking dream, and his sisters’ white stockings, ribbons, and gloves) before discovering that the gold of his search is really Pilate’s yellow orange and the glittering metal of the box in her ear." There’s a lot going on there!
She uses those colors, thrown in here and there, to vividly describe scenes, but also as a part of this larger project that she's engaged in—a critique of American society and the ways that African Americans are asked to participate but are also excluded in different ways. Participant: It seems like every third or fourth girl born in the Midwest in 1962 must have been named Susan. Giselle Anatol: So there is the idea of a generation and culture.
To review: Morrison begins "Unspeakable Things" by talking about literary canons. It is somehow separate from them and they from it, and …
She observes that “There is something called American literature that, according to conventional wisdom, is certainly not Chicano literature, or Afro-American literature, or Asian-American, or Native American, or . this separate confinement, be it breached or endorsed, is the subject of a large part of these debates.” (1) In many ways, Morrison’s fiction has acted as a bridge between Black writing and the American literature that for years was taught only as works by dead white male authors.In this light, I’d like to begin with the theme of names and naming in the novel. It seems to me that you're talking about a struggle—the individuality that your first name is supposed to give you but that you didn't get. I shortened my name to Art, a form my older sister and mother have never used and never will. Giselle Anatol: Names and ancestry show your position in a line of people and illustrate the idea of your parents, or whoever names you, wanting to connect you to others; however, you were determined to find your individuality. You were talking about “Dobratz” and how that connects you to a specific cultural and ethnic group. A name like Steinberg is identifiable as a Jewish last name.There is a tension between belonging to a group and seeking a sense of one’s own self. But you’ve allowed us to weave migratory, national, and ethnic histories in. Participant: I have the same thing, a name connecting to my ethnicity. It was supposedly shortened from the name “Von Rykenberg” when my ancestors came.And then comes a part that I think is striking: "The composition of red, white, and blue in the opening scene provides the national canvas/flag upon which the narrative works and against which the lives of these black people must be seen…." As you remember, the opening scene has the red petals that the girls have made that are fluttering all over the white snow and also the image of the blue wings. That's very intentional, the red, white, and blue imagery.Morrison goes on to state that this national canvas—this ideology of American patriotism, and mainstream conceptions of what it means to be American—“must not overwhelm the enterprise the novel is engaged in.There is this powerful tension of between what it means to be bound to a people and to be bound by other people.One can feel bound to people, connected to them with lots of loyalty and support, but there is also the sense of being bound as in being tied up and constricted.She has published an edited collection Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays (Praeger, 2003), and numerous articles on representations of motherhood in Caribbean women's writing.Professor Anatol has lectured on the works of Toni Morrison to high school students, junior high and high school teachers, and delivered papers on Morrison's work at academic conferences.Giselle in the US/American context is very unique, but in Trinidad, which is where my family is from, Giselle was a name like Jennifer of the early 1970s—everyone had that name.Walking down the street there, if I'm visiting family and someone yells out "Giselle," I'm always turning around thinking it must be me, having grown up in New Jersey, but six people will turn around.