The Origin of Others, by Toni Morrison.
The fundamental question in Toni Morrison’s book, The Origin of Others, is why humans have had, since time immemorial, the need to construct an "us versus them," or “others.” Although this quick read was published last fall, current hot-button topics such as, “The Wall," immigration bans, voter registration, Black Lives Matter and more recent controversies such as, gerrymandered election districts, and census questions are not specifically referenced, the timeliness is breathtaking. Morrison writes of historical attempts to justify slavery, the concept of “racial purity,” as well as the truly jaw-dropping excepts from slaveholder Thomas Thistlewood diaries whose systematic rape of black women is as casually documented as his comments about his meals or social meetings with friends. Works from authors such as Hemingway, Faulkner and (Harriet Beecher) Stowe, are examined in the way that literature has used color to denote character. The takeaway message is that seeing others as inferior to make oneself feel better is part of our human DNA…and, unfortunately the permission to express that view overtly has been granted anew in this divisive day and age.
Review by Sarah Ehrenson