In honor of our annual Toni Morrison read, writer Minda Honey is back to discuss Tar Baby, a novel about colorism, the class divide and an international love affair. We dig into the book’s title, unpack the ending and question who we were rooting for. We also talk about violent mothers, and normative race and gender roles.
Be sure to listen to the end of today’s episode to find out what our book club pick will be for November 2023.
*Due to the nature of podcast advertising, these timestamps are not 100% accurate and will vary.
Traci Thomas 0:09
Welcome to The Stacks a podcast about books and the people who read them. I’m your host Traci Thomas and it is the stacks book club day. Minda Honey author of The Heartbreak Years returns to the show to talk about Tar Baby by Toni Morrison. It is both of our first times reading this classic novel which dissects race class colorism and privilege through a complicated international love and family story. Appears Morrison’s famously poetic prose with tragedy comedy suspense and biting social commentary and some of the best scenes in a novel that I have ever read. There are a ton of spoilers on today’s episode, so make sure you read the book before you listen. Also, if you’re new here, just wanted to let you know that we have dissected a different Toni Morrison novel every single year of the stacks podcast. So if you have not listened to before, we have episodes on The Bluest Eye Sula, Song of Solomon, Beloved and A Mercy. Go back and check those out. Make sure you listen all the way through to the end of today’s episode to find out what our November book club pick will be. And a quick reminder, everything we talked about on each episode of the stacks can be found in the link in the show notes. All right now it is time for my conversation with Minda Honey about Tar Baby by Toni Morrison.
Alright everybody, I’m very excited. We are joined again by Minda Honey the author of The Heartbreak Years. Minda, welcome back.
Minda Honey 2:37
Thank you. I’m happy to be back.
Traci Thomas 2:40
I’m so happy this is the all important Toni Morrison book club episode we read. Tar baby by Toni Morrison. It’s her 1981 novel. People listening if you have not read the book, there will be spoilers. I am not sorry, but we got to talk about that. And we got some dinner party scene so we’re spilling all the beans. Michael’s story is coming out. Okay, we’re not waiting till chapter six. You’re gonna learn about Michael today. Minda? We always start here, just sort of generally, what did you think of Tar Baby?
Minda Honey 3:15
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive Toni, for like the first 40 pages of this novel.
Traci Thomas 3:23
Oh, interesting. What about the first 40 pages?
Minda Honey 3:26
I mean, I was just like, Why are we sitting- We were basically the first 40 pages are basically an elderly white couple bickering. And then we’ve switched to the kitchen. And we see an elderly black couple bicker. And it wasn’t until we’re in Paris with Jadine. And she sees the woman in the yellow dress that I was like, oh, okay, something something interesting is happening, something was going on. And I think the things that I typically love about a Toni Morrison novel, how she really takes us into a community and sets us into it and we are going to experience all of these different characters and the landscape as a character and all those things were working against me when we she sat us down into the world of these two couples, but there is there is a turn there is a turn though so don’t lose out.
Traci Thomas 4:22
Okay, so here’s what I generally thought I the first three quarters of this novel, I fucking loved as I was reading I was like, Is this my favorite Toni Morrison book like this book is basically a collection of plays and I love a play. yes, scenes. It is like scene after scene, the dialogue the back and forth. When I was reading it, I was like, oh shit, especially in the beginning parts. I was like this is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Like that’s what this book is. It’s just Martha and George fighting different Marthas and different Georges fighting about the same stupid shit. And like, and like when In the early part where they’re talking about Michael, is he going to come? Is he not going to come? I was like, this is literally Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I have no clue what happened at the end. So that really, after they go to alo or whatever, that’s like, things fell apart for me. But for the most part, I really, really liked this book.
Minda Honey 5:19
You and I are reversed, because the last part of the book was the most exciting for me, because then we got into typical Toni terrain. Yeah, whereas I had the same thought I was like, Oh, this is basic. I was like, Why didn’t she just write this as a play? Because it’s so much dialogue back and forth. And I just had this like, distrust, like, we’re never gonna get to meet Michael.
Traci Thomas 5:44
Right, right. Right. Right, right. Well, I knew no, Michael was not coming. We did. Michael, there was zero chance we were gonna Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. It’s not my call everyone. But my, actually, nobody’s coming to dinner a son is just showing up in your home, but nobody else is coming over. Okay, when I sent you the list of the remaining Morrison novels we had not done on this show. You picked our baby. Why did you want to read this one?
Minda Honey 6:07
Well, you know, I have, I think my copy has to be from like the 80s. Yeah, yeah, it’s gorgeous. And it says across the top full of sex, violence, myth, wet and dry wisdom, and the extraordinary sense of place. So I was like, yes, sex and violence like that.
Traci Thomas 6:27
I mean, it has my jam. It does have all those things. Okay, I respect that. Okay. You didn’t like the prologue?
Minda Honey 6:36
I did like the prologue. I did like the prologue. The Prologue is very Toni Morrison, yes. Okay. Like we’ll take, I liked the prologue, the prologue does not count of the changes that I was like, Okay, what is going on here?
Traci Thomas 6:50
Because at the end of the prologue, or the last little, few sentences, she says, There, he saw the stars and exchange stairs with the moon, but he could see very little of the land, which was just as well because he was gazing at the shore of an island that 300 years ago had struck slaves blind the moment they saw it, and I was like, Well, fuck.
Minda Honey 7:10
I underlined that part. Yeah.
Traci Thomas 7:11
I mean, that said, there’s so many sentences in this book, and I am not a sentence person, where I was like, Oh, she’s here. Like, I just feel like this book had a lot of Toni Morrison signature stuff, all wrapped up together and had like, such messy relationships, and had really like rich scenic development where she would like focus on on the tiniest thing I mean, literally, like bees without stingers or whatever, like those butterflies or whatever. And then it had the soldier ants. The soldier ads.
Minda Honey 7:46
So many bugs eating they’re eating the wing muscles. Oh, yeah. After copulating. Yeah. Oh, stars scene.
Traci Thomas 7:56
Yeah, I’m wondering, I want to start here, because you wrote a book about heartbreak. And, you know, I have this community called the sacks pack that our Patreon people, if you want to join, go to patreon.com/sacks. But someone brought up that they had read tar baby, and then they immediately read your book. And they thought they saw a lot of parallels. And I’m wondering, as you were reading the book, if you felt like you saw parallels?
Minda Honey 8:17
Well, that’s interesting, because as I was reading the book, I did not necessarily see parallels, but after I finished the book, and was sitting with it, and thinking about it, and trying to think about, you know, what I had to say, and what I wanted to bring to this conversation, I did see a pretty major parallel. And here I am flipping through my notes. Which when we think about this tension between sun and Jade, it’s a it’s a tension that I’ve experienced before in relationships when it comes to dating, and it’s very frequently that a man wants me to abandon my life and to step into his reality fully. And I’m like, no, no, no, no, I’m going to elevate you lift you up and bring you into the glamorous world of Minda, honey, you know, TM, and and they don’t want that they don’t want that they want to be living in Ehlo, Florida or wherever. And so I was like, yes, like, I know, this tension. I know this debate and it comes Tony articulates it so beautifully. On page, my copy, it’s like 269, where she says, Each was pulling the other away from the motto of hell. It’s very rich top, each new the world as it was meant or ought to be one how to pass the other a future. And each one bore the culture to save the race in his hand. So there Yeah, it’s just this endless struggle and I saw a lot of my major question that I was excited to ask you during today’s Conversation is who or what is the tar baby?
Traci Thomas 10:05
Okay. Well, let’s fuck it. We usually do the title at the end. But let’s just oh wait, wow, let’s do the title. Now let’s do an article. I just usually do it at the end, because it’s usually not the most interesting part of the book. But in this case, I do think that the idea of a tar baby is probably very interesting in this book. I had the same question for you. Who did you take the tar baby to be? And who was your brer rabbit?
Minda Honey 10:29
Okay, I think there’ll be just like-
Traci Thomas 10:31
Wait let me tell people really quickly so the title is Tar Baby. And for people who aren’t familiar, the tar baby story, does she tell the tar baby story in the book? Not fully.
Minda Honey 10:39
She references she references. She doesn’t tell.
Traci Thomas 10:42
So for people who don’t know, basically, there’s Brer Rabbit who is a rabbit and is eating the masters or the farmer. But this all right, this whole thing is a metaphor for slavery. So bird rabbit is the slave and the farmer is slave masters anyways. And Brer Rabbit is eating the farmer’s cabbage or some shit. And the farmer has like a baby girl doll made out of tar. That will capture brear rabbit. And so Berbick is like goes past the the little. I’m a really good storyteller goes past a little doll, baby. And it’s like, the doll baby doesn’t say anything back because it’s like a little doll baby. And then he gets mad and he hits the tar baby and his paw gets stuck. And then he does it again. And his pug gets stuck. And then he gets all his paws and his head stuck on tar baby. Then he convinces the farmer to throw him into the briar patch.
Minda Honey 11:36
And he’s like, no, no, don’t throw me into whatever you do.
Traci Thomas 11:40
Don’t get me into the briar patch. That would be the worst thing that you could ever do to me. Little does the farmer know the briar patch is where the Brer Rabbit is. So he gets in there and gets free, gets one over. That’s the story run runs away lickety split. That’s the story. In this book, to me, I felt that Jadine was the tar baby. She is the sticky thing. To me. However, I also think you could read it that Jay Dean is Brer Rabbit, and that the tar is is whiteness, or like wanting to be perceived by whiteness in a certain way. And that she is sort of stuck on that. And the deeper she fights it the more she becomes it like the more she tries to the more the more that blackness tries to pull her away, the more she sticks to it. I don’t think that has quite as good of an ending I think with her as the tar baby, then that means that son is Brer Rabbit. And that feels slightly more like obvious. But I do think that there’s a world I think everybody sort of in the story has their own tar baby like this thing that they’re stuck to.
Minda Honey 12:53
Yeah, yeah, I would agree that everyone has a tar baby of some sort. But I think like the Big Daddy tar baby is going to be the past. And I think for son, he’s unable to let go of the past. So we have him constantly returning to his past, he goes back to Ehlo, even though it means potentially losing Jadine and losing his future. The one thing that He glorifies above all else in this book is his original dime, right? Which isn’t any like, it’s not even anything that great, but like this is the thing that he’s elevating, he at one point tells JD and he’s gonna go back to working on the boats. And she’s like, you’ve been banned. You’ll get in trouble when he goes back to Ehlo. And he goes to his father and his father’s like, Oh, I didn’t catch all the checks, because I didn’t want you to get caught. It’s like, you know, he was still looking back, looking back, looking back. And then when he’s in New York, and he realizes that him and Jadine are not going to work out and she leaves all of a sudden you can’t let her go either. So he like goes back to the island. Even though Gideon tries to tell him Do not go back, don’t go, he still goes back. So I think that he has this inability to be free because he’s like, constantly stuck in the past and all of these ways. And I think that ties into the parallels that your reader may have seen between my book and tar baby because Jadine above anything is going to move forward. Right like she doesn’t mean she doesn’t care if that means being invested in whiteness. She doesn’t care if it means leaving behind this man who has made it possible for her to enjoy her own body as someone who’s used to being consumed as a model. She doesn’t care if it means abandoning her surrogate parents. She is going to get free.
Traci Thomas 14:51
Yeah, interesting. Okay, I want to read what Toni Morrison said in an interview about the title. That’s what she said. It In the book, I’ve just completed tar baby, I use that old story because despite its funny, happy ending, it used to frighten me. The story has a tar baby in it, which is used by a white man to catch a rabbit. Tar baby is also a name like the N word that white people call black children. Black girls, as I recall, tar seem to me to be an odd thing to be in a western story. And I found that there is a tar lady and African mythology, I started thinking about tar at one time, a tar pit was a holy place, at least an important place because tar was used to build things. It came naturally out of the earth and held together things like Moses, his little boat and the pyramids. For me, the tar baby came to mean the black woman who can hold things together. The story was a point of departure to history and prophecy. That’s what I mean by dusting off the myth, looking closely at it to see what it might conceal. And I think that’s sort of speaks to your idea of like this moving forward of this black woman who can hold it all together, like she’s gonna hold it all together, no matter what, despite what like, get her shit done, get in and get out.
Minda Honey 16:03
Oh, I wonder though, after hearing your read from that Toni Morrison interview, if then Nadine is the tar baby, because she’s the one who’s holding everything together at all costs. And she has that conversation with Jade about how she didn’t teach her how to be a daughter. Right? You know, whereas her partner son is literally, you know, I talked to said something about how he can’t stop looking into the past. And he’s literally named for what became before him. So I wonder then, if Yeah, if Ondeen – Ondeen?
Traci Thomas 16:41
I was calling her Ondeen and then Nona Dean.
Minda Honey 16:45
Yeah, I wonder if she’s the tar baby, then because she’s also really sacrificed in order to stay in the straight household, and to save, you know, to keep her marriage together to provide for Jade. And all of these different ways. It’s the same thing for the black woman in Ehlo, that she does not identify with and wants to get as far away from as possible. And so then there’s this just kind of beautiful contradiction in like, is it possible to be free, but to also bring your community with you, which I think is often at the heart of conversations about the black struggle, quote.
Traci Thomas 17:25
Right, right. I want to I’m gonna link to that interview in the show notes because Toni Morrison talks a little bit about that as well in the interview, and I don’t want to just read the article word for word, but people you should check it out. Okay, let’s go back to the top of the book and kind of work our way through it. Yes, more or less but I have some other things so the book starts with this prologue son who we don’t know his son yet is in a swims to a boat gets on a boat then takes the boat goes to Ile de cheval, yay, which is the island of the Knights is sort of what that translates to. que ni ght s is from French anyways, and then we lose him. We go to the book, we start with valerian Street, who is this older white guy, he’s like 70 in the 70s, early 70s. And he’s sort of a sort of like a quirky wreck loose slightly, like grumpy old white guy. And his wife is the beautiful former mrs. Main Ms. Main. Margarita, currently younger than significantly younger. She aged 22 years. She was 17 when they met he was 39. A vibe. I guess for some older men, not so much my vibe. It’s more it’s giving a Woody Allen vibe, if you will. Yeah. So they are married. They hate each other. They don’t sleep in the same room. He is retired on this island off of Dominique, I believe. Yeah. And then she, they’re based in Philly, that’s where they were. She comes when she wants and leaves which she wants, but she hates it and she hates him. They have two domestic workers Sydney and his wife on Dean, who are the aunt and uncle and adoptive parents to J Diem, also known as Jade didn’t I thought it was really interesting how the whites called her Jade and the blacks called her J Diem. Yes, I was like, of course that feels right. They were probably like, oh, JD and that’s kind of hard. Can we just call you Jade. Alright, relax. And it’s leading up to Christmas time. And the guest of honor at Christmas. And the reason the reason the reason detail for Christmas this year is Michael, who is valerian Street and Market Streets son. About 30 He’s supposed to be coming. He’s got a red truck. He’s promised He’s coming. He’s promises.
Minda Honey 19:54
He went to Oberlin.
Traci Thomas 19:57
No, didn’t they say he like went to Cal he went to Berkeley I think
Minda Honey 20:01
They’re lying. This is an Oberlin guy.
Traci Thomas 20:03
Oh. Well listen, I feel like UC Berkeley is definitely it’s giving. He’s giving. He’s giving. He’s a little socialist; he’s giving woke white, if you will. He’s a woke white.
Minda Honey 20:15
Yes, I love my Oberlin folks. Don’t get me wrong.
Traci Thomas 20:17
I love my Berkeley folks. But he’s, yeah, it’s a type. And in chapter three, I’m spending a little bit we start to hear the story of Michael. The information we get about Michael is that he is likes to tell JD she’s a traitor to her race.
Minda Honey 20:37
Oh my god.
Traci Thomas 20:39
And you know what? He’s not wrong. Apparently. My one of my first notes I took about J. Dean was she do you watch The Bachelor?
Minda Honey 20:47
I watched Rachel Lindsay season.
Traci Thomas 20:49
Did you watch Taisha season she was the next. Okay. She was the black bachelorette who she’s half black, half Latina. I can’t remember exactly where her family’s from, I want to say Mexican, but I’m not positive. And she did not like to be called Black. She’s just Taisha. And, and she has that vibe, the like, I don’t, I’m I’m African American and Mexican or whatever, you know, not black. And when I got to J Dean, I was like, Oh, this bitch is a Taisha because he has also dropped dead gorgeous drop dead just stunning, like, holy moly. But my first note on Jadine was JD Anastasia. There’s others of that ilk. Madison keys the tennis player, the current head coach of the Miami Dolphins who does not identify as black he identifies as part of the human race. Interesting. And yes, it’s less that they don’t. It’s the it’s the trying. Madison Key said I’m not black. I’m not white. I’m just Madison. And that to me is a JD So So Michael calls that out a little bit, which maybe not as pleased, but also maybe not wrong. And then we hear this story about how valerian loves his son so so so so much. And his son would have these moments where he would sing this sad song and he would like go and hide. And it’s sort of a weird story. And it’s sort of given where we are in the book. It sort of feels like valerian is just doing his thing because he loves to host and entertain and like be the center of attention and he’s telling JD in the story after his wife runs out of the room in hysterics, we’re led to believe
Minda Honey 22:31
Yeah, cuz she’s like, What is she early onset dementia happening or something like that? She doesn’t know how to use salad tongs, he embarrasses her she
Traci Thomas 22:41
Right and she leaves. He tells a sad story about Michael. But we don’t really know what’s going on. Sometimes he seems sad. And then his mom is very loving of him. And then sometimes he’ll get distant again and we don’t know that all of a sudden, there is a clatter upstairs. We hear a scream from Margot. She comes downstairs she can’t speak she’s screaming. It is giving you damsel in distress to the backs. It’s a this is a this dinner scene is a fucking dream of a scene for me. This scene was so good. I loved it. This isn’t even the big dinner scene. But this stuff is not subject to me. This scene is even better than the big scene because nothing’s really going on. And then all of a sudden the whole book comes to its starting point, which I think is probably and this is about 70 Well, let’s see it’s even more than that. I think it’s like 80 pages. 79 pages is when we finally when Jade and son finally see each other. She’s freaking out but she won’t say what’s going on and Valeria and like talk woman and she’s-
Minda Honey 23:45
She’s been waiting her whole life to play this.
Traci Thomas 23:47
This is Margaret. This is it. This is getting the call for the Oscar nominated film where you have to lose 100 pounds like this to an actress. This is the dream moment. Sydney goes upstairs with a gun. He brings down son a dark skinned, raggedy stinky ass motherfucker who’s been in Margaret’s closet. This for many perhaps Minda is where the novel really starts. True. What did you think of son’s entrance?
Minda Honey 24:24
It it was definitely Toni doing what she does best and making it just impossible to make sense of what’s going on. Like everything was all of a sudden shook up and you have no choice but to just wait in anticipation for her to move the story forward. Like I just didn’t know like I didn’t know what was going to happen next. And it’s also everything is so off kilter because he is not threatening, right? He’s not threatening. And in general, finding a strange man in your closet would be horrifying. But we also Have this race dynamic at play happening here. So there’s and this, this is something that I felt throughout the novel that Toni Morrison doesn’t really give us a comfortable place to land. Like, there’s no character in this book worth rooting for. Okay. Like, for any portion of you that identifies with any of these characters immediately a space to be struck with shame. Yeah. And so this scene is really, that like, ratcheted up to 5000 like, yeah, like, okay, he’s not behaving in a threatening way. But it’s scary to find a stranger in your house, but isn’t anti black, because he’s like this black man. And now they’re calling him a gorilla. Like, oh, my god, how am I supposed to feel about this? And the irony of Jadine, offering up to Margaret to use the N word when describing son, but then being offended when she calls him a gorilla. Like, why didn’t give her permission for that? It’s like, yeah, we are splitting hairs here.
Traci Thomas 26:02
Maybe you gave him permission for the other one, so she could do anything back that way? Yeah, no, that seems so good. Okay. I do want to ask you about who you were rooting for throughout the book. Were you rooting for anyone? It’s okay. You can be honest, I can go first. Yeah, I was rooting for son. I didn’t want to admit that. But basically all the way until it got it got a little trickier for me towards the back half. But I Fox was son I do I do. I don’t like JD right. I don’t like JD and she’s she’s I just don’t, I don’t like her. I maybe it’s pretty anti pretty bias. I just I don’t like her. I don’t, I’m not I’m not with her shit. But I was really rooting for son. And not for them to be happy together. I was rooting for him to get whatever it was that he wanted or needed. And I think some of that is because he was like, down with yd man and was like, No, his name is Gideon and was like, these are people and the fact that he could come into that scene and be and like, see it. So clearly. I felt like she gave him the ability to see the characters clearly. Which as a reader is really helpful. Like it aligns you with him. Like in a storytelling standpoint, but also for me, I felt like I could see what was happening clearly. So having someone who I was like, Oh, good, we get it. Other people don’t get it made me like him, though. Which is probably why the ending was really hard for me because I didn’t see that clearly. And he was not he wasn’t seeing clearly either. But what about you? Who were you rooting for?
Minda Honey 27:26
Yeah, I think initially when sun comes on to the scene, especially because I did enjoy the prologue. I was ready to root for him. He’s the one that kind of like comes in cuts through all the bullshit tells it like it is Has everybody else kind of on edge like, but then his like deep massage and he surfaces. And it was like, oh, no, I can’t root for this man. Yeah, either. The, you know, the fact that he would try to take someone like Jadine and remove her from New York and try to get her down and Ehlo subjected her to the misogyny of like where he’s from, right. The fact that he snatched that camera from her and wanted to, like diminish her in this way. The physical violence within their relationship. I also like Did he sleep with Alma like, and like I think he said he did. Well, he said he slept with someone when he went to town, and then almost so heartbroken because he didn’t bring her the wig and she lies in the end of the bipod. He slept with her. That’s how I read it. And she’s incredibly young, but she’s young. And so he slept with her he made these promises to her that he didn’t deliver on he’s perfectly okay with women being excluded from the conversation and having to play these secondary roles. He really puffs himself up that he murdered his wife but that’s okay. Because she was sleeping with a teenage boy or whatever.
Traci Thomas 28:49
You’re right. I like the bad guy. I don’t know. I’m giving you antihero love. I know he’s a monster and yet I love him.
Minda Honey 28:56
I can’t root for JD I feel like you I feel like I wasn’t alive for anyone. No, nobody. Nobody see I’m rooting for Michael to realize he had a toxic family and not coming home for the holiday.
Traci Thomas 29:08
Listen, I also like Valerian.
Minda Honey 29:10
No, Valerian is like the monopoly man come to life!
Traci Thomas 29:16
That’s a personal character that I that’s a character that I personally love the like grumpy old man who’s like obsessive and weird and totally just like a Chaos agent. I love that device.
Minda Honey 29:27
You loved him even after Toni Morrison drug him and his ilk for the way that they like exploited the brown people of the world for sugar made all this money and then come back and buy this. You still loved him. I couldn’t love him.
Traci Thomas 29:42
I look- I don’t want to be Him or know Him. But I want I liked scenes he was in I was happy to read Valerian like I was rooting for more Valerian. For me personally, I liked that kind of character. I liked the person Who is a real fucking asshole, but also has a heart of gold?
Minda Honey 30:06
But I don’t think he’s got a heart of gold. Like-
Traci Thomas 30:09
I think he has a heart of gold, but also in the structures and systems of racism, he is a bad guy. But I feel like on the day to day, I don’t know. And I-
Minda Honey 30:19
But he turned a blind eye to Margaret’s abuse of their son. And talks about how whiteness wants to preserve its innocence at any cost. And so we see in valerian, that he was willing to look the other way, even though something was clearly wrong. Something was wrong, he left this baby have a baby, and then just kind of abandoned her to it took away her one support system, which was on Dean like, he didn’t want them to become friends. And then he’s just sitting out in this green house, completely insulating him from the realities around him when he first appeared in the book, because Toni Morrison always gives really symbolic names. I looked up, Valerian, you know, because I had heard of Valerian fruit. It’s a flower. It’s a flower and you take
Traci Thomas 31:06
A pink and white one.
Minda Honey 31:08
You take it to sleep, though. And that’s what this man is doing. Like he’s sleeping through his life. And so when that alarm clock finally goes off at the end, and Margaret forces him to look at the truth of the matter-
Traci Thomas 31:22
Yeah. No, I he’s, I don’t like him. Like I like him. But I liked that character. Ithink of all the characters in the book. Valerian was the one I was the most interested in. Not that I was rooting for him. I guess that’s not the right way to put it. Yeah, but just that like that story, his story where he shows up in the book where the scenes that I was just the most- I want to talk a little bit about the humor in this book. Yes. Because I think Toni Morrison is so fucking funny. And she let’s not get credit, like the way that she was writing, especially in the first half of the book, and like the disdain for the streets, and even the disdain for andina and Sydney and JD and Leia anti blackness a way that she like looks down her nose at her characters is hilarious because it forms the way she talks about them. Like there were so many parts of the book where I was just like giggling and like like the way she describes Margaret eyes. Blue is what is it blue blue? If it’s a boy blue if it’s a boy blue eyes. i There’s just something about that phrasing. And she does have a lot of colors in the book she has Yes. See, green is the sea sky blue is the sky. And there I don’t think she gets enough credit for being funny. But I think of all the books I’ve read of her so far. This one is by far the most comedic.
Minda Honey 32:59
I will definitely give you that. And the funniest scene to me, was when everything comes to a head, and Margaret reveals that she’d abused Michael as a baby.
Traci Thomas 33:09
And then the next scene Aunt Deen reveals that she abused Michael as a baby.
Minda Honey 33:13
And then the next morning Margaret goes into the kitchen and wants to tell OnDine well, you should have stopped me. You were like 35 it OnDine was like no, I was like, 22 I was a child. And she said you want it to hate me. You were so obsessed with me. You were thinking of me and OnDine’s like girl, I was thinking of a paycheck okay, like I just want to keep a roof over my head. But just the absurdity of this like white woman thinking that this black woman was so obsessed with her and so invested in her and this way created this massive drama. And she’s like, No, I this was just a job. I was clocking in clocking out. Nobody was thinking about you. And she even I think OnDine even says that. It’s specifically I wasn’t really thinking about you.
Traci Thomas 33:26
She said I was thinking about the kid more than anything. I think that scene I mean, that scene is pretty was pretty heartbreaking too. But the part where she was like, I was What were you doing? You were 30 or 35? I was only 19. And she’s like, booboo, I was 23. Like, yeah, you’re racist, and you’re an asshole, and I’m not that old. Like you fucking wish you think I’m your mom. I’m not your mom. I’m your contemporary. That’s why we were friends in the beginning because we’re the same actually. Like fuck you. Yeah, no, I just that’s that scene. That scene was so good. But that again, that’s that like disdain of like, I feel like so many authors talk about how they write their characters like you have to I have to find like, love them. I have to find a way to love them. And I don’t think that Toni Morrison. At least about these people.
Minda Honey 34:41
She also has like kind of almost like a creepy kind of humor too. Because when we get towards the end of the book, and Jadine comes back, I think to just get that baby seal coat. She’s talking to Margaret and Margaret is so peppy. Now that valent now that that Valeria meets her eye I almost called him Valentine needs her to take care of him. And I’m like, Dang is she like, poking him with the cuticle scissors now? And then you have Sydney in there telling him like, Oh, do you want some wine? And he’s like, No. And Sydney’s like, oh, well, I’m gonna have a glass. He’s like Sydney. I told you. I don’t want any wine. And so he’s like, Yeah, I’m gonna have the wide it’s like, the butler’s revenge. And we have this kind of like shift happening, that you’re not sure it’s going to be an echo of Margaret and Michael’s relationship, but I thought that there was like, kind of just like a creepy like, yeah. Tales from the Crypt kind of like super happening there.
Traci Thomas 35:37
Well, I think what’s really interesting about this book is like the way she subverts and uses stereotypes and cliches. I mean, every character in this book is an archetypal character, right? Like you have like the beautiful wife who’s evil, you have the like, aloof, rich husband who’s like obsessed with his little garden or whatever, you have the beautiful black woman who’s also a sex goddess, and, you know, a model, and then you have the black brute who sneaks around, and you have the butler, who’s so loyal. And then you have the like mammy character, who knows what the fuck is up, like, you have all of these characters, but with every single one, she takes that archetype, she plays with it, she uses it, and then she fucking slips that switch so fast. Like the fact that Margaret was the real violent one. In all of this, when she had when Margaret would have us all believed that it was son, you know, she’s crying, but how scared she is that he’s gonna hurt her. And he’s like, I’m not even interested in you. A and B, you’re a baby beater. Like you’re in your baby and burning your baby. I mean, we didn’t even say that. That’s the revelation at the dinner scene in chapter 656. Pick up sticks. I think it’s chapter five. The dinner scene and Chapter Five is where we learn what has been going on with Michael, and it starts and Gideon, it starts with son bringing up Gideon being like, oh, it’d be so nice. Have Gideon was at Christmas dinner too. And I read that as a as a pot stirring moment. Maybe it was innocent. I don’t know. How did you read that as intentional or innocent?
Minda Honey 37:17
No, I don’t think I don’t think I thought about it much because we were immediately on to the whole apple situation. And because we have this earlier scene where Theresa is talking about her Apple obsession and Gideons trying to bring them back from the States for her. And I’m like, why she’s so fixated on Apples, but then you have like the whole garden of Eden thing. And then the apples are like the loaded gun by the end of the book.
Traci Thomas 37:40
Oh, I didn’t even connect the apples to the Garden of Eden. That knowledge? Yes, yes, of course. So yeah, so so good. So son is like, oh, it’d be great if Gideon was here, and they’re like, who’s Gideon? He’s like, yard man yard, man. That’s his name. And they’re like, Oh, what a beautiful name. And then the Lerins like, I fired them. And then on Dean’s like, what? And he’s like, I don’t have to tell you shit. I’m I’m the boss around here. You’re welcome that you get to sit at this table. And the whole ship basically spirals out on Dean essentially is just like bucket Let’s burn this shit down then. Yes. Go fully at Margaret is like you’re a bitch. Fuck you. And then Margaret’s like, Oh my God. I’m a victim. And she’s like, you’re not a fucking victim. You are a baby killer. I saw you. I been seeing you. You were poking out. Boy. You were burning that boy. You’d like to watch him cry. Mic drop. Yep, She smacked sir. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Then they fight. She She hits her. Then she grabs her braids. But she does that before she actually drops the mic, right? She they have the physical altercation, then they get pulled apart. And then she’s like, you’re a baby killer. Oh, holy shit. That’s a scene as well.
Minda Honey 39:02
I mean, that’s the big dinner scene.
Traci Thomas 39:06
That is that is the big dinner scene. I prefer the dinner scene and scene three and chapter three, just because I felt like that was like a much craftier scene, but the big, you know, moment of the book, no return.
But okay. Okay, I know what I want to ask you. Okay. This book, if you like read the copy about this book. It’s like, this is Toni Morrison’s reinvention of the love story, blah, blah, blah.
Minda Honey 39:29
What? Did they read this book?
Traci Thomas 39:31
The marketing copy of this book had me believing I was going to read a love story. This is a family drama story to me. And this is also a stranger in our midst story.
Minda Honey 39:43
Okay. My my description is different. It says Tar Baby is a magnificent novel from one of the most acclaimed authors of our day. Toni Morrison. Never before has she probed so deeply and sensitively into the relationships between blacks and whites, blacks and blacks, women and Men never before has she achieved such raw emotional intensity and overwhelming narrative drive. In the words of New York Magazine, Toni Morrison has made herself into the DH Lawrence of the black psyche, transforming individuals into forces idiosyncrasy into inevitability, which I think is a lot more accurate description.
Traci Thomas 40:19
Do you want to hear mine my ravishing beautiful and emotionally incendiary tar baby is Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison’s reinvention of the love story Jadine child’s is a black fashion model with a white patron, a white boyfriend and a coat made out of nine V perfect Seal Skins. Son is a black fugitive who embodies everything she loves and desires as Morrison follows their affair, which plays out from the Caribbean to Manhattan and the Deep South. She charts, all the nuances of obligation and betrayal between blacks and whites, masters and servants and men and women.
Minda Honey 40:58
Not just one, because the relationship doesn’t even happen until like three fourths of the way into the book.
Traci Thomas 41:03
They don’t see each other till page 79. They don’t speak until page 113 of a 300 page book. They don’t be fucking until damn near the end. And the chapter six star seem It’s wild. But anyways, so obviously you didn’t have that preconceived notion that this was gonna be like a love story. But I definitely did. Because that’s what all the copy says now about the book. I wonder why there’s been this shift, I think probably because people are too scared to talk about race. So if you frame it as like her conversation about race and gender. It feels risky. Yeah. Yeah, they don’t have sex until page 214. And it’s like very metaphorical sex. It’s the star. It’s the throbbing stars. We love a throbbing star, don’t we? But then they kind of have she doesn’t really give you like a full sex scene. She definitely stays away from like a full section. She talks about their sex, but she doesn’t give you like a sex moment. I don’t even know where I was going with that.
Minda Honey 42:08
But well, I don’t I don’t either.
Traci Thomas 42:13
I don’t either. Oh, I know what I wanted. I what I did want to talk about though, is the way that she uses the black characters to discuss racism and race in this mode. For the most part, aside from like, extremely obvious racist remarks. The streets sort of stay out of the race talk in this book, right? Yes, she uses Sun Jadine on Dean and Sydney and then a little bit, Gideon and teres, but I’m wondering like, what you thought about that?
Minda Honey 42:46
We’ll also the Filipinos that never appear on this shake page. Keep catching strays? Sounds like De Lima people alone.
Traci Thomas 42:53
Oh, yeah, you’re in this book. Congratulations.
Minda Honey 42:58
Yeah, that Yeah, it’s like, there’s such a hierarchy. And everyone’s trying to defend their place in the hierarchy. And so that’s where we see this anti blackness really seep out of everyone. And even though you spoke earlier about how Jay Dean’s really decided to align herself with whiteness invest in whiteness, even the women that son admires back in Ehlo heat we have this moment when he first sees Alma and that ridiculous right away egg, where he becomes so disenchanted because it’s like, it’s like, it’s not necessarily that there are certain people that are, you know, in this in the world of this novel that are above aligning themselves with whiteness, is that certain people don’t have as much leeway to do so. And so he’s starting to see that when he sees Alma in that wig.
Traci Thomas 43:51
Mm hmm. I really liked how she used the characters of Sidney and on Diem. Like when son first appears, and they’re so fucking mad that he said hi, and that he got to sit at the table and drink the wine or whatever. And on Dean’s like, don’t say shit. I’m saying he’s like, No, I’m gonna say something. She’s like, don’t I’m not trying to lose my job over this shit. Don’t let j do it, basically.
Minda Honey 44:22
But they didn’t have any kind of feelings about Jade sitting at that table and letting them serve her as if she was above them. Right? I was just like, I would be I when I thought about Jay doing I was like, I would be so uncomfortable.
Traci Thomas 44:37
Did you have a sense like in your mind, are you a reader who like imagines what people look like?
Minda Honey 44:43
Sometimes it depends.
Traci Thomas 44:45
Did you have any like sense like as far as like what color you thought the characters were?
Minda Honey 44:52
I mean, Jade was definitely like a Whitley character from A different world. Yeah, that’s where I would put her. And then I wasn’t really sure. Skin Tone wise were Sydney and on OnDine fell. And then obviously the book describes son is me being much darker because he’s, like, you know, representing this like dark consciousness. Right. And then I knew that the folks who are working on the island and who are indigenous to the island are also darker. Well, not indigenous, they were probably brought there through the slave trade. Yeah. are likely darker skinned as well. So yeah, in fact, I didn’t really necessarily at first picture, Jade as being lighter skinned until that moment where she sees the woman in the yellow dress at the grocery store. And then we get a little bit more information about there’s some references to Jade being like a yella? They basically call her a high yellow.
Traci Thomas 45:58
Yeah. And also, when he says something, someone says something to her. And he’s like, you’re not one of them or whatever. Like, it’s like, oh, well, she’s got a little like, he’s like, I can tell she’s black or something in the middle, she got a little tan right now. She’s been on the islands or whatever. But I wonder if that part of it like of her being so light skinned plays into why they’re okay with her sitting at the table, and also because she’s their family, and they like, wanted this for her? Sure. But it’s time to spend the money to send her to the places and get her a patron or whatever.
Minda Honey 46:33
Yeah, but then you would hope that she would return and still respect you. But yeah, that very first dinner scene where I was like, oh, Jay, just up at the table. And not even there was no familiarity. You know, there was Sidney was serving her as he would any right white person. He doesn’t know it wasn’t like she was like, Thanks, uncle or, you know, acknowledging him in any sort of way. He was just the background to her.
Traci Thomas 46:58
Right. Yeah. And I took that as something that Sidney and Andi wanted for her right like that, that that was their hope for her. Because I mean, clearly, they are anti black in a lot of ways, too. And I feel like, that’s what’s so interesting about the way that that Toni Morrison uses the black characters to have those conversations is that she doesn’t like that she can center our conversation about like white supremacy and anti blackness in a black in black voices. She doesn’t actually need white people to do that. And I feel like, you know, I think that that’s really spot on. And it’s powerful. I don’t think other I don’t think lesser writers could or would even think to do that. Right. Like, she always talks about how she writes for black people. Yes. And I feel like that, that the usage of the black characters in that way, is shows that really clearly to me. It’s like, even though she has white people who could very easily do this work for her. She’s like, No, no, no, I’m not gonna let them I’m not gonna let anybody off the hook by just having the the villain of Margaret do it, you know?
Minda Honey 48:10
And that’s where her humor comes back into, because she had gotten so much criticism from white critics for not writing white characters and writing about white people and what they think and what they’re doing. And she’s like, Okay, sure. I’ll give you some white people. Right. Right. And then it’s still very much a book of focused on blackness about blackness among Black people. Right?
Traci Thomas 48:31
Well, one of the members of the stacks pack mentioned she was she was reading one of pearl colleagues, essays or articles and she talks about how Pearl Klieg is like, oh, Toni Morrison doesn’t write for black people anymore, since she wrote tar baby. But I think like in the moment, if you’re a black reader, and Toni Morrison said, I write for black people and her first books leading up to this, which would be Sula, The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon all focus exclusively on black people. And then you have this book that starts out with these white characters, the 40 pages, yeah, that feels like the center of the book. Without knowing what’s coming next, or what she’s done. It’s interesting to see that that was potentially the criticism in 1981, when this book comes out as like, Oh, she sold out maybe, right, like, and I thought that was really I haven’t read the article. So I’m gonna I’m gonna see if I can find the link to it. But I haven’t read it. I just someone brought it to my attention. But I thought that was really interesting, because that’s what happens like with cultural commentary in the moment, you can see the broader scope in the work like the arc of the artist. And Toni Morrison probably couldn’t see it either at the moment, like, I wonder how she took would take that kind of intra community, like criticism, right?
Minda Honey 49:36
I think she would tip her off to the fact that maybe the book wasn’t they didn’t finish reading the book. They just stopped at that first 40 pages, right? Or were so disenchanted by those first 40 pages, couldn’t see what she was actually doing. But I think she I think Tony knew, I think she knew what she was what she was up to, but I also just wanted to go back to on And in Sydney, like, I think they elevated che Dean with the hopes that she was going to pull them up. Right. And so that’s that heartbreaking scene in the end, when you know, JD and is saying Don’t Don’t make me a parent like don’t expect, don’t expect something from me right now.
Traci Thomas 50:16
Right? Well, I think also when she’s like, I didn’t teach her how to be a daughter, like so, you know, deeply related to gender? Yeah, I think for me, I I was hoping she would say I didn’t teach her how to be black.
Minda Honey 50:31
Well I think that’s, that’s the coding there. Because, you know, like, your mother is the cultural bearer of the household. And you see on Twitter people saying like, Oh, you can tell that by racial person. Like, they had a white mother, not a black mother. Like there’s that Right. Which is, you know, yes, I could say a lot about that. But same, but I won’t. I could, but I won’t please see the previous episode we did.
Traci Thomas 50:58
Thank you. Link in the show notes.
Minda Honey 51:00
But um, yeah, so maybe that’s what that coded language was happening there. Maybe it was working on multiple levels about what was not passed down.
Traci Thomas 51:10
Yeah. I want to do a sort of a while I want to go back really quickly, something we were talking about. Did you feel like with the tropes and the like stereotypes that she has, for her characters, archetypal characters? Did you feel like she did enough to subvert them to like, make new meaning of those characters? Or, or do you feel like this? It was felt stale in any way or anything like that?
Minda Honey 51:32
Oh, definitely didn’t feel stale. Definitely. The sort of book that you’re going to continue to be thinking about these characters and following falling down rabbit holes. You know, I, I noticed that Teresa’s last name is Foucault. So I was like, oh, you know, Foucault wrote all about knowledge and powers, and actually, you know, tumbling through Foucault’s Wikipedia page. And thinking about all of the different power struggles happening within the relationships of the book, and a lot of the tension between sun and JD and because JD has been educated, you know, and in some like it in educated as symbol symbolic of being embedded into this world of whiteness. And Sun is like refusing that to ng Dean is trying to say, this is where the power is. And son is saying, No, the power is remaining with, you know, your place of origin staying true to your roots. And so we have that kind of back and forth. going on. So I think, yeah, I think this is the sort of book that like most Morrison books weren’t all more some books weren’t multiple reads. Yeah. And that there are going to be all of these little trap doors for you to find and go down and so many things to think about.
Traci Thomas 52:51
Right? It’s so complicated. And I mean, I love the way she uses names. I she just is like the queen of naming people. We don’t have too much time, but I do want to talk about one thing about the sex scene. Okay, this is me, this is me doing a very big literature reach. I know, there’s a lot of close readers who listen to this podcast and they get annoyed with me because I’m not a close reader. I’m like a much more of a broad reader, I think.
Minda Honey 53:11
I am a close reader. I am a sentence person.
Traci Thomas 53:13
I am a close reader, but I’m not a close reader where it’s like something comes up and I’m like, Oh, let me look this up and then do like, like, I don’t do that whole thing. I’m like, Okay, that’s a reference or whatever. But during the sexy scenes, she talks about how he parts her hair, and then licks the split, or the partner Scout licks her heart. And I at the end of the book, when he gets to the island, and he is running lickety split. I was like, ah, that is the part he liked her split. I don’t know. But I felt like that was a close reading. So for all of you close reading people, congratulations, I have a PhD. We have to do too. We have to do three things quickly. Okay. One thing I want to talk about quickly is the crime of innocence. Because Sean Larian is the person that we are told has the crime of innocence. He’s guilty of being innocent, right? He’s guilty of not knowing or choosing not to know what happened to his son, Michael at the hands of his wife, Margaret, even though we know that he kind of knew something was up but he didn’t want to know. So he didn’t know. However or in addition, I think J Diem. Also guilty of illness.
Minda Honey 54:20
Yes, Right. Absolutely. She doesn’t want that tar stuck on her, you know, not want that tar of truth. Because we see her Blondel scene where she they’re trapped. She’s she’s getting pulled down into the tar and the four mothers are watching her and she fights for her light to get to get out to not Sully her white tennis outfit. Like she she ain’t having it. She’s gonna be ignorant to whatever she needs to be ignorant have to keep moving forward and she tells on do don’t. Don’t tell me about like Whatever hardship you’re facing right now because I won’t be able to leave if you do.
Traci Thomas 54:57
Exactly. And also just like the visual of her being dipped in the tar. She’s like black, black, black. And like the way that she uses her education to be like, she she allows that for her to be ignorant, or like innocent of other things because she has this education. And then when son has that great monologue that’s like you didn’t learn about me, like, right? That monologue fire fire. I wish people in college auditions for theater would do that as their monologue. Like that is just such a killer, killer monologue. Holy shit. Okay. Let’s talk about the ending because we have to, what do you think happens at the end? We know So Jade goes Jadine goes back, she gets her coat. She says Peace out. I love you. But I gotta go fuck some whites in Paris. Bonjour, au revoir.
Minda Honey 55:51
She was ambivalent about whether or not she was gonna fuck whites in Paris.
Traci Thomas 55:54
She was ambivalent whether she was gonna fuck Riqriq again. But she was not ambivalent about going back to Paris.
Minda Honey 56:00
She didn’t really like any of her choices, but she’s like, but I gotta-.
Traci Thomas 56:03
She knew she could carve out a new path. Okay? So she could part the hair and lick the part. Okay. So she’s like, bye, gotta go. Can’t stay won’t stay. Then son waits, like a week in New York. And then he’s like, fuck it. I gotta go back to the island. He gets back there. He runs up on Gideon in them. And he’s like, Yo, take me to the house. And my girl. Cerise is like for a murder. And he’s like, No, and she’s like, man, and that was me. I was like, we’re getting a murder. I thought for sure. We were getting a murder at the end of this book. I love a murder. Give me murder. But only in fictional stories. Thank you. So I was like, we’re getting a fucking murder. I cannot wait. He’s like, No, I’m not going to do a murder. I just want to find out where she is. And I’m like, and I am Gideon and Gideon as I am. We’re both like, she ain’t worth it.
Minda Honey 56:53
Completely disinterested. He’s like this can wait till Monday.
Traci Thomas 56:56
Yeah, like baby I don’t care how good the sex is. No. And which also, I just want to parenthetically add some time talks about how he’s in love with Jade. It’s all lust, right? Did you get any sense of they actually loved each other? They talked a lot, but he said he loved her when he’d only ever seen her instead of her sleeping.
Minda Honey 57:18
Which, also creepy.
Traci Thomas 57:19
Hella creepy. Anyways, so then, Son is like, take me and Teresa’s like, I’m blind, but I’ll take you and he’s like, go off. Let’s go. They go up there as they go. As they get closer and closer. It gets foggy and foggy here and he’s like, she’s like, Okay, we’re here. And he’s like, No, we’re not and she’s like, Yeah, this the backside of the island and then he’s like, Nah, Lady tastes like why? He’s like, take me to the front side. And she’s like, No, no, no, this is the side you need to be on. There’s some rocks, climb them go out. He’s like, it’s foggy. I can’t see and then this is the this is how the book ends. The mists lifted and the tree stepped back a bit as if to make the way easier for a certain kind of man. Then he ran lickety split lickety split, looking neither to the left nor to the right. lickety split. lickety split. lickety lickety lickety split.
Minda Honey 58:13
Yeah, like horses. clopping.
Traci Thomas 58:15
And lickety split is a reference to the tar baby story. I guess the Brer Rabbit gets out of the carpet and he runs away lickety split. What do you think happened to him? Is he dead? Does he drown? Is he alive? Is he running to the blind? The race of the blind the blind slaves of that haunt the island?
Minda Honey 58:37
I think I think yes, any number of things could be supported. I’m gonna put my money on he pops up at that house in Sydney shoots him that’s that’s where I’m at because Sydney said if he because you know on Dean tells, you know tells him Hey, JD says if son shows up Don’t tell her where I’m at. And Sidney upset to hear that son put his hands on JD it was like if he shows up here. I’m gonna shoot him. Sydney’s also feeling very much like the man in the house now that Valentine valerian is kind of a doddering fool out in the greenhouse. Yep. So yeah, I think it’s gonna be Sydney in the kitchen with a gun.
Traci Thomas 59:23
Okay, giving clue Sydney in the kitchen with a gun. Okay. I feel very uncertain. However, I’m going to go if your answer is answer that I would like to believe. My answer is the answer that I think is what those close reading smart people want me to tell you about. So here he is. Again, I want to say that your answer is the one that I believe but here’s the other option is that he gets off in the midst. Perhaps there’s no mist at all. Perhaps that’s metaphorical man. And he is going blind because he laid eyes on the island that makes people go blind. And therefore he is now becoming one without the shovel, yay. And he is becoming a blind person. And this is a metaphor that connects him to valerian, Margaret Sydney and andina the people who live there, they are blind to the bigger picture of the world, he will become one with the black shivali as the Black Knights who haunt and inhabit the island, and he will be lost to us and to the world. Because he can no longer see which is why Teres who is of the race of the blind descendant of those people, she can still kind of see because she doesn’t live on the island. She just goes back and forth.
Minda Honey 1:00:46
Also why she would be the one to deliver him to the island. Yeah, to guide him into this world. Yeah, yeah. So she tells them this is the right place. This is the right place.
Traci Thomas 1:00:55
She’s like, I can’t see but I know you don’t need eyes to know this is where you belong. This is where you belong. That’s what I’m gonna say happens yeah, and but if there’s a murder, I would like to be auntie murder just officially.
Minda Honey 1:01:11
Yeah, you’re getting the A-plus paper. I’m getting the C.
Traci Thomas 1:01:14
You’re getting the review that you are getting the right grade that I would get if I had gone first. But I’m getting a plus because I went second.
Minda Honey 1:01:21
Toni novels I feel like always kind of in in this way. Like in Sula, you’ve got the parade of people marching.
Traci Thomas 1:01:28
Oh that does end in a murder, to me that was-
Minda Honey 1:01:30
Yeah but but the way that it’s written is very, like very similar to the way this is written in the end. And then Song of Solomon with the with the yell that happens at the end. Like there’s always this just kind of super lyrical, semi ambiguous.
Traci Thomas 1:01:49
And she’s never giving us the answer. She’s not giving us the answer. Wait, I know what I wanted to talk about about Margaret really quickly. Just in historical context of Toni Morrison’s novels, this one precedes Beloved. And I couldn’t help but think of Margaret in relationship to sepa, who, everybody. This is a spoiler for Beloved. So stop if you haven’t read or listened to episode, but who kills her daughter? And I just was thinking about her interest in this like, violent mother and so curious if that at all was connected to the next book. Obviously, I I’ve heard the story about how she talks about learning about the real life woman who killed her children, so that they wouldn’t be re enslaved when she wrote, beloved, but I just it’s so interesting that back to back books have this like, mother.
Minda Honey 1:02:42
All of her books that I’ve read, of course, has a violent mother figure. well, Sula, but then milk man’s mother insisting on breastfeeding him right for entirely too long,
Traci Thomas 1:02:55
Like these kinds of mothers that like care through a form of violence or whatever, I don’t know what but for whatever reason, the Margaret to set the thing for me just like, jumped out so aggressively. But also, I did also think of Margaret and milk man’s mom. Yeah. Anyways, that’s all just food for thought. Okay, the last thing we’re gonna do-
Minda Honey 1:03:16
Now I want someone to do like a close read on, like, mothers who love through violence and Toni Morrison novels right. Because it’s a thing.
Traci Thomas 1:03:26
It’s definitely, I think in The Bluest Eye, too, isn’t there? Like? Like, the mom like beats the shit out of the kids or something that I make that I think so? It’s been a while since I can’t remember. I haven’t read that in five years. Okay. Last thing I want to do quickly, quickly, quickly. Sure. Is. Do you think this would make a good movie or TV show? And if so, who are you casting?
Minda Honey 1:03:50
Oh, wow. I think it could make a good like you said like, it’s already set up like a series of plays. Yeah. So I think it would lend itself well, to a TV show us like a limited run series. Son would definitely need to be the guy who starred in Moonlight.
Traci Thomas 1:04:08
That’s who I have- TreVante Rhodes!
Minda Honey 1:04:11
Oh, my gosh, just such a beautiful, beautiful man.
Traci Thomas 1:04:15
I also consider Daniel Kaluuya because he can act the shit out of anything.
Minda Honey 1:04:20
And Daniel would kill that that very first dinner scene that son makes the appearance that like his expressions. Yeah, that was like he definitely has the range for that. Who, like everybody else? I’m like, I don’t I don’t fill everyone else. Just make sure that your volunteer.
Traci Thomas 1:04:37
I’ll tell you what I did. I’ll tell you what I did. I did Jeremy Irons for Valerian, because he was so great at that kind of character in the watchman TV shows. Yeah. I did either Nicole Kidman or Michelle Williams as Margaret came in might be a little too old but she loves that fragile white thing.
Minda Honey 1:05:01
You know they’re just gonna dye Jennifer Lawrence’s hair, right? And cast her in it.
Traci Thomas 1:05:05
Michelle Williams No. Jennifer Lawrence is too like tough like, for me.
Minda Honey 1:05:10
They’re gonna cast her anyways because they love to cast her in a relationship where she’s married to a significantly older man.
Traci Thomas 1:05:15
That’s, that’s true. Okay, I did Zendaya as Jadine But I think we might need someone slightly lighter. passable. I feel like Ruth Negga probably, but she’s too old, you know, but like.
Minda Honey 1:05:27
Negga was in Passing, with Tessa Thompson, so maybe Tessa Thompson could play Jadine.
Traci Thomas 1:05:35
I they’re both too old to me. You need someone younger. But yes, that type. But I feel like Zendaya has the like, you can’t take your eyes away from anything that we hear about Jadine that Ruth Negga does not. I went with Jeffrey Wright as Sydney because I thought he could hit some of the humor marks I thought he could give us some of the look to camera like this guy is fucking lost his shit. And then I had to for OnDine. I had Chandra Wilson, who famously Bailey on Grey’s Anatomy, my favorite TV show. And then I also had Regina King. She is 51 years old. So she is in the age range. Right because we know that Nicole Kitt we know that Margaret is supposed to be almost 50. And OnDean is like two or three or three or four years older than her. So I feel like though I think of Regina King as being younger, I think she could be amazing.
Minda Honey 1:06:27
I guess when you mentioned OnDean, my mind immediately went to Viola Davis because we’ve already seen her in The Help, you know.
Traci Thomas 1:06:35
Yes, I thought of Viola Davis too. And I was like, yes, she’s obvious but i don’t i don’t know we can if we can get all these people someone called Hollywood but actually tell them to fucking and the actors strike because we can’t get any of these movies as these buffet people with their way the sag AFTRA people so you can’t have this idea until we have a deal for the actors who are striking in Hollywood. Hopefully by the time this airs, there will be a deal but that’s like a week from now so who knows? Okay, that’s everything I have. Is there anything else you want to say or add?
Minda Honey 1:07:11
No, I just want to thank you for having me on because this is absolutely the type of book that you read and then immediately you need someone to talk to about it, but because it came out in the 80s, I might be hard pressed, so I’m so glad that I got to do this in a book club book chat’s context.
Traci Thomas 1:07:28
Me too. This one was a really fun one to read for me and oh, I know there’s one line which he’s talking about Michael and Valerian and talking about Michael and he said that beautiful boy with a smile like Sunday. I just love that.
Minda Honey 1:07:44
I thought that was really beautiful too.
Traci Thomas 1:07:46
Just so good. Okay, Toni Morrison, fucking- she’s undefeated. Good luck anybody else would love to see you do anything even half this good. Minda your book, The Heartbreak Years is out in the world. People can get it wherever they get their books. Enjoy. Everyone else, make sure you listen to the end of today’s episode to find out what our November book club pick will be. Yeah, and everyone else we’ll see you in the Stacks.
Alright, y’all, thank you so much for listening. And thank you again to Minda Honey for returning to the show. I’d also like to say a quick thank you to Susanne Williams for coordinating this episode. All right now it is time for our announcement of our November book club pick. It is Severance by Ling Ma. The novel is an apocalyptic satire released in 2019. All about a pandemic. Yes, we are finally doing a pandemic novel on the stacks. Be sure to listen to our November 1st episode to find out who our guests will be. And we will be discussing Ling Ma’s Severance on November 29th on this very podcast. If you love the show and want inside access to it, head to patreon.com/the stacks and join the stacks Pack. Make sure you’re subscribed to The Stacks wherever you listen to your podcasts and if you’re listening through Apple podcasts, be sure to leave us a rating and a review. For more from the stacks. Follow us on social media at thestackspod on Instagram, Threads and tik tok and at the stacks pod underscore on Twitter and you can check out our website at the stacks podcast.com This episode of the stacks was edited by Christian Duenas with production assistance from Lauren Tyree. Our graphic designer is Robin MacWrite. The Stacks is created and produced by me Traci Thomas.
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