A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Increasingly, Song of Solomon and other works by Morrison are showing up on high school and college reading lists. As with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it provides the opportunity for readings at various levels; a teen may read it easily and understand a great deal, then come back to the book in college or as an adult and discover even more. Morrison does weave in historical facts here, such as the murder of Emmett Till and the murders of four African American girls in an Alabama church bombing, that a teacher or parent may want to help readers sort out and learn more about.
This is one man's thoughtful search for identity, a journey that takes him from selfishness to love.
Positive Role Models
Characters engage in promiscuity, theft, and even murder, but these behaviors have deeper meaning and will force readers to think about identity and power. In the end, the protagonist learns to be a more complete human being, learns how to love and respect others -- and takes control of his own life.
Violence & Scariness
Suicide by jumping from a building, an attempted strangulation, a knife fight, and a shooting. Several real-life hate crimes are mentioned, including the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till and the murders of four African American girls in an Alabama church bombing.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Intercourse and oral sex, sex between cousins, breastfeeding an older child, story of a woman lying naked in her bed with her dead father implying incest (though she claims this to be untrue), fantasies of sex between a mother and her son, mentions of teen sex and prostitution.
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Language is frequently sexually suggestive and includes racial epithets and graphic trash-talking, including mentions of sodomy and forced penetration.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some alcohol use, including underage drinking. The main character smokes, and his aunt makes and sells wine illegally.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.