A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon deals with slavery and racism and is at times both violent and sexually explicit, with graphic language and references to incest, as well as references to several real-life hate crimes, including the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till and the murders of four African-American girls in an Alabama church bombing. There's an attempted strangulation, a knife fight, a shooting, and a suicide by jumping from a building. This masterful novel will give teens a lot to think about in terms of race, gender, power, and identity. It's a rich but intense book, best for older teens capable of handling the explicit passages maturely.
What's the story?
Macon "Milkman" Dead III is a spoiled young man who is loved by all and loves no one in return. He is the child of a prominent if dysfunctional African-American family in a small Michigan town and remains blissfully unconcerned with the turbulence in his family, his community, and the world. In seeking out his family's heritage, however, he discovers his own ignorance and tragically renews his sense of self.
Is it any good?
SONG OF SOLOMON is American literature at its finest, and its beauty and complexity are simply awe-inspiring. Toni Morrison deftly interweaves past and present, and the slow discovery of the history of Milkman's people carefully reveals where he has gone wrong in his own life, as well as what he must do now. Morrison's firm grasp of recurring themes and images pulls readers in with all the suspense of a popular mystery, then carefully mines the depths of the human condition, exploring the ways in which families differ and evolve, how we treat those we love and those who love us, the nature of liberty, and a person's place in society. Teens will appreciate the challenge of tackling such a complex novel, empathize with Milkman's search for identity, and be left with plenty to think about and discuss.
Some readers may dwell on the sex, violence, and language, but students who have trouble relating to typical English class fare often find this to be the first assigned book into which they truly sink their teeth and which they actually enjoy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that this book is on the Radcliffe Publishing Course's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century -- and also one of 46 books on that list to be banned or challenged. Why do you think so many books on the list are controversial? Who has a right to decide what you should (or shouldn't) read?
This book is often picked for school reading lists. Why do you think that is?
Why do we have reading lists? Is it only about exploring the literature itself, or is it also important for classrooms and communities to have shared stories to reference?
For kids who love the African-American experience
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