Annotated Bibliography


Harris, Trudier. “Toni Morrison: Solo Flight Through Literature Into History.” World Literature Today, vol. 68, no. 1, 1994, p. 9., doi:10.2307/40149836.

Trudier Harris takes a historical approach as she looks at Toni Morrison’s work.  Harris begins by addressing Morrison’s reputation as an African American female writer who has received multiple awards, including a Nobel prize in literature, acknowledging her for her style and messages within her for works.  Morrison’s works are a staple in American Literature and represent the African American experience for many students and scholars around the world who use her work as a lens for American Literature. Harris focuses on some of Morrison’s[AS1]  works to pick out pieces of history for discussion on the racial tension and prejudice prevalent in American history, drawing to her conclusion that these pieces have united people all over as her audience and understand hardship under her tutelage.  The author states in their conclusion that Toni Morrison has taught people the futility of thinking only in absolutes, to trust ancestry and intuition, and to question preconceptions.  Closing with the idea that Toni Morrison was a pioneer who received a reputation and then used it to stay rooted in the community , her commitment is seen in her willingness to teach others and raise funds for the humanities.  As the author has declared repeatedly, Toni Morrison has been the ambassador of diversity to American literature and she continues to be an inspiration to future generations.

Bennett, Juda. “Toni Morrison and the Burden of the Passing Narrative.” African American Review, vol. 35, no. 2, 2001, p. 205., doi:10.2307/2903253.

In Juda Bennett’s article, she focuses on the broader portion of Toni Morrison’s work in correlation with the larger shifts in culture, politics, and aesthetics. During the time this paper was written, there was an “explosion” of analysis, criticism, autobiographies and biographies, studies, and pieces on the topic of passing for white.  Bennett places Toni Morrison’s most known books and short stories into three categories: characters not physically capable of passing for white, fully capable of passing for white, and the refusal to reveal the racial identities of the characters. In this article, the author discusses six stories and “Recitatif” falls under her third category about the refusal to reveal the character’s race, it allows the reader to understand that while this story may encourage them to figure out the racial identity of the characters it never allows for an answer to be reached.  Juda Bennett explains that the racial ambiguity in Recitatif requires the readers to be active and not passive in their engagement with this story.  Additionally, she points out the symbolism embedded in Toni Morrison’s work directed towards America’s contradictions in the laws and hierarchies. In Bennett’s conclusion, she states that the symbolism of Maggie in Recitatif adds to the theme of “removal of racial codes”, with this there is a sense of involvement and curiosity that makes us believe in an alternate possibility.  Because of this desire to figure out which character belongs to each race, the reader becomes involved in the story and more susceptible to epiphanies geared towards reading rather than plot.  The passing narrative is used to paint the larger picture of the effects of racism upon the African American community and expose this to white America.

Morrison, Toni, and Nellie McKay. “An Interview with Toni Morrison.” Contemporary Literature, vol. 24, no. 4, 1983, p. 413., doi:10.2307/1208128.

Nellie McKay interviews Toni Morrison on her life and writing process, this includes how Morrison’s writing settings have evolved by reaching greater distances from the United States [AS5] to Europe.  Toni Morrison discusses how she creates and writes about the characters; she explains that their story is not completely known but their outcome has already been determined.  Nellie McKay reaches into the complexity of Toni Morrison’s characters, especially the women’s weaknesses and the multiple layers of Morrison’s male characters.  The “haunting” nature of Toni Morrison’s stories is a source of pride for Morrison because it is her goal to create these long-lasting memories that make readers think and feel. In the interview Mckay questions Morrison’s desired outcome for her literature and the criticism of black writers, Morrison replies that she wants African American stories to be heard and reflected in the books without the fact that the characters are “black”.   The interview concludes with Toni Morrison’s music analogy, Lena Horne or Aretha Franklin do not give their listeners everything but leave them with the desire for more.  Likewise, Morrison aims to make her readers want more of what she has and to never completely satisfy them.

Li, Stephanie. Toni Morrison: a Biography : A Biography, ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central,

In this book written by Stephanie Li she goes over the life of Toni Morrison.  Li discusses the early years of Morrisons life and throughout her writing, editing, and teaching careers in exploration of Morrison’s inspiration for her stories and what makes her a powerful African American writer.  Stephani Li presents old interviews of Morrison, information about her personal life, her novels, achievements, and awards to tell the story of one of the most influential writers in American literature. The topics that are presented in Li’s book are as follows: early life and family, education and early career, editing and mentorship, early literary career, critical recognition, later novels, and collaborations and cultural critiques.  Toni Morrison’s short story “Recitatif” is mentioned and brings forth Toni Morrison’s philosophy of life and beliefs on racism.  Morrison uses all of her characters, women, men, children, and their relationships to explain to her audience the importance of talking about racism and how it is depicted in a white society.

Morton, Marian J. “The Transformation of Catholic Orphanages: Cleveland, 1851-1996.” The Catholic Historical Review, vol. 88, no. 1, 2002, pp. 65–89.,

Marian J Morton’s article is a historically centered account on the evolution of Catholic orphanages from the mid 1800’s to 1996.  It was a traditional practice to take in orphans or dependents when their parents could not take care of them, and as events like those of World War II struck the nation the Catholic childcare institutions were present to take in the growing number of children in need of shelter.  The events that took place in this large time frame shaped the way orphans were taken care of, this includes laws that were enacted for the welfare of children, the mental trauma children experienced from these institutions, and the deinstitutionalization movement and child advocacy pushes that ultimately made the orphanage system crumble.  Adoptions services were founded and child welfare acts were placed down as a push to eradicate the child abuse found in orphanages.  The emergence of foster families and victim protection programs for the children who were sexually assaulted ended the American orphanage institutions and redefined Catholic charity services.


De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel. “Personality, Childhood Experience, and Political Ideology.” Political Psychology, vol. 36, no. 1, 2015, pp. 55–73. JSTOR, Accessed 26 Apr. 2023.

“Personality, Childhood Experience, and Political Ideology” examines the ‘big five’ personality traits modeled by possible character dimensions and how they affect political ideology. The five traits are openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, and neuroticism. Independently, these traits have no inherent influence on ideology. However, when paired with environmental and social experiences from childhood that create lasting developmental impacts, these traits potentially shape one’s ideology. The political views referenced, including liberalism, conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism, and social dominance orientation, are associated with varying prevalence levels among personality traits. Author Toni Morrison writes on political views surrounding mothers and segregation among African Americans and whites in her work “Recitatif”. This source provides an understanding of which ideologies Morrison’s characters fit, as suggested by their personality types, life experiences, and actions.


Farah, Martha J., et al. “Environmental Stimulation, Parental Nurturance and Cognitive Development in Humans.” Developmental Science, vol. 11, no. 5, Sept. 2008, pp.793–801. EBSCOhost, Accessed 26 Apr. 2023.

This journal discusses a cognition study on children from lower socioeconomic spectrums (SES). Due to the higher stress and poverty levels in these lower classes, exposed children receive less emotional warmth, involvement, and responses from others, especially caretakers. One category of neurocognitive function affected by experiences in childhood is memory. Through the study, experts discovered that while SES does not significantly affect memory, there is a one in three difference between the memory abilities of children with and without proper parental nurturance. Two grown women in “Recitatif” cannot agree on what truly happened during a troubling event they experienced as children. As suggested by the findings from this study, their faulty memory could be due to the influence of their distant mothers and the negative figures from the children’s home they spent time in.

Wang, Dan, et al. “Long-Term Neighborhood Effects on Adolescent Outcomes: Mediated through Adverse Childhood Experiences and Parenting Stress.” Journal of Youth & Adolescence, vol. 49, no. 10, Oct. 2020, pp. 2160–73. EBSCOhost, Accessed 26 Apr. 2023.

The authors of this journal provide insight into the connections between neighborhoods, parental stress and the behaviors of adolescents. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are any exposure to dysfunctional, abusive, or neglectful caretakers that cause negative effects on the development and behavior of children. This study particularly benefits the analysis of Twyla and Roberta’s thoughts and actions in “Recitatif” because of the circumstances posed by their mothers and childhood community that meet ACE criteria.


Abel, Elizabeth. “Black Writing, White Reading: Race and the Politics of Feminist Interpretation.” Critical Inquiry, vol. 19, no. 3, Spring 1993, p. 470. EBSCOhost, Accessed 26 Apr. 2023.

The academic journal examines how a reader can interpret literature based on the insights by an author’s ethnicity. The author’s message can convey a variety of meanings depending on the relation between the audience and author’s shared or different racial identities. Toni Morrison’s writings exhibit the role of societal norms in influencing character and psychological portrayal. Culture, history and personal background form an individual’s interpretation of a text in how race and class is perceived in “Recitatif”. Feminism is observed in the literary elements of “Recitatif” with the interconnectedness between race and a woman’s role. Investigating the racial codes found in Morrison’s depiction of racial identity is the premise that this journal emphasizes. The journal reviews the deconstruction method, cultural criticism and historicity in how race and class can take on meaning in literary compositions.

These critical approaches are expanded upon with the intention of determining the associations that “Recitatif”, among other literature, are seeking to help the reader understand in how they come to certain conclusions. Through this journal, Bennett gives reasoning into Morrison’s intent for the audience to recognize and develop their own self-awareness of racial predispositions. This academic journal serves as a literary analysis that focuses on the relationship between points of view through a cultural and critical lens.

Harris, Trudier. “Toni Morrison: Solo Flight through Literature into History.” World Literature Today, vol. 68, no. 1, 1994, pp. 9–14. JSTOR, Accessed 28 Apr. 2023.

Trudier Harris’ article “Toni Morrison: Solo Flight through Literature into History” delves into Morrison’s background in being a well-known writer who has contributed to the world of literature. The author presents information on Morrison’s achievements, such as being a Pulitzer Prize recipient, that provides a new outlook on African American experience in western literature. The style of writing and plot structure seen in Morrison’s compositions are explored in the article. The integration of African American and American elements in Morrison’s literature is examined in how it addresses diversity and the framework behind American postulations on race. The history of race in the texts of literature, its impact and conceptual meaning, are researched through the interpretation of conventionality. An overview of Morrison and the history behind her writings are stated in their applicability of the times, both in the past and the present.

Moya, Paula L.. The Social Imperative: Race, Close Reading, and Contemporary Literary Criticism, Stanford University Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, Accessed 28 Apr. 2023.

The book The Social Imperative: Race, Close Reading, and Contemporary Literary Criticism by Paula Moya analyzes the relationship between the reader and a literary text. Observing cognitive and social constructs through literature forms and alters the interpretation by the reader. By examining the meaning and purpose behind close reading, Moya discovers the implications and cultural boundaries that exist in many literary works, such as Toni Morrison’s. The reader’s personal history, background and culture shapes the way they receive or understand the message of a passage. How one reads literature will determine how they form their own meaning and connection to it. A reader’s response to topics that encompass race, gender, culture and society are influenced by their personal ideas and relationship to those concepts. The characters in Toni Morrison’s short story “Recitatif” form their own cognitive ideas based on their personal histories and backgrounds. Whether in fiction or reality, an individual’s history and culture shapes their ideas on how they perceive the world around them. This is the central focus of this book as it provides a fundamental study into these approaches for a variety of literary compositions that includes Toni Morrison’s.


Androne, Helane Adams. “Revised Memories and Colliding Identities: Absence and Presence in Morrison’s ‘Recitatif’ and Viramontes’s ‘Tears on My Pillow.’” MELUS, vol. 32, no. 2, 2007, pp. 133–50, Accessed 28 Apr. 2022.

Helane Androne references both Toni Morrison’s ‘Recitatif’ and Helena Viramontes’s ‘Tears on My Pillow’ to draw our attention to their struggles for personal and collective power. She brings in the aspect of parenting and how the mothers can influence the main characters in their developments of those powers. The memories that the two girls have in Recitatif continue to change how they view their past, and by extent, how they view themselves. This source will be beneficial to my essay because it shows how people are shaped by their lived experiences, regardless of what those memories show. It also gives a good breaking off point for the different upbringings in different cultures and situations.

Morris, Susana M. “‘Sisters Separated for Much Too Long’: Women’s Friendship and Power in Toni Morrison’s ‘Recitatif.’” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, vol. 32, no. 1, 2013, pp. 159–80, Accessed 28 Apr. 2022.

Susana Morris’s work shows the connection that these two women have through their life, in a perspective of need. Not only was their connection brief in their girlhood, but it was lasting even in their brief encounters. Morris shows the need of that relationship and how they both developed alongside each other. She also sheds light on the inherent power that friendship can have in a person’s life, especially a friendship that crosses lines in the 1950’s. This source will help bring in the start of a racism aspect of feminism and how women are viewed depending on which side they are on in that. This could show how femininity is treated differently on either side, and what feminism means for women in general.

Wyatt, Jean. “Toward Cross‐Race Dialogue: Identification, Misrecognition, and Difference in Feminist Multicultural Community.” Signs, vol. 29, no. 3, 2004, pp. 879–903, Accessed 28 Apr. 2022

In Jean Wyatt’s essay she talks about how race affects how people are perceived, with care paid to a feminist view. This essay is not specific to Recitatif but has a great many things to offer to the perspective of those two women. It brings up questions about real vs. perceived identities and how to properly identify with one’s own culture. This particular source will be used as an aid in understanding the more in-depth topics that are hidden in Recitatif’s words.


Abel, Elizabeth. “Black Writing, White Reading: Race and the Politics of Feminist Interpretation.” Critical Inquiry, vol. 19, no. 3, Spring 1993, p. 470. EBSCOhost,

In Abel’s piece, “Black Writing, White Reading: Race and The Politics of Feminist Interpretation”, she touches on the underlying theme of black and white feminism, examines the dichotomy of both lenses and critiques the simplicity of narrowing them down. In this text, Abel compares her reading of “Recitatif” with black feminist Lula Fragd’s reading, even going so far as to write to the author, Toni Morrison. The reply does not satisfy her questions, and instead, Morrison explains that the story is built to make the reader recognize their own preconceived ideas about race and class traits. Abel goes on to deconstruct and magnify the issue of being a white person that is critiquing writing that deals with race, making points like the white reader and the acknowledgement that must be made that they will have had a different experience in life.

Li-Li, Wang. “Decoding racial identity of the characters in Recitatif.” US-China Foreign Language 9.12 (2011): 812-816.

In this paper, Li-Li argues that Morrison is attempting to show the idea that both black and white people identify themselves with the differences between them. They attempt to assign race to both characters in the story, taking clues from Morrison as to which is which. Li-Li finds that most clues could possibly work for either race or could be more easily attributed to stereotype. Li-Li concludes with the idea that Morrison’s “Recitatif” allows the reader to confront their own ideas of race and challenges them to rethink and re-examine their own tendencies of thought. They propose the idea that Morrison has created a story that requires outward participation in the deciding, and in the deciding, learning more about oneself and growing in the process.

Halpin, Brian F., et al. “Literature: An Exercise in Futility or the Way to Save the World?” The English Journal, vol. 95, no. 6, 2006, pp. 28–32, Accessed 29 Apr. 2022.

This essay explores how we can teach students and ourselves how to use writings like Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif” to understand and write about race and class. Halpin confronts issues like “whitewashing”, classism, and class blindness in schools and how to combat the apathy it breeds. He tackles other issues like school politics and critiques the independent school while focusing on how to better teach and understand how literature can affect and even change the world.


Miehyeon, Kim. “Sympathy and Indeterminacy in Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif”” Oak, Feminist Studies in English Literature, Volume 23, Issue 1, April 2015, p133-166,

Toni Morrison’s goal is to experiment in removing all racial codes from the narrative in a story and challenges readers to examine their morality through self-reflection. Miehyeon argues that morality cannot be reduced to abstract societal norms. Recitatif in its goal to be ambiguous to generate sympathy and to have readers self-reflect on their own morality, limits itself to the constraints of societal stereotypes. In doing so, this allows Morrison to generate the desire to self-reflect due to the emotional connection between the two main characters while also generating feelings of sympathy from distant relationship of the two as they grow up. Miehyeon’s essay not only discusses how Morrison’s removal of racial cues generates the act needed to motivate one to self-reflect but how the relationship between Twyla and Roberta creates sympathy as they grow distant. At the epicenter of Twyla’s and Roberta’s divide is Maggie, a conflict that cumulates overtime due to the revelation of how each of them remembers and thinks of their mistreatment of Maggie. Not only does the audience have to self-reflect on their viewpoints and unconscious stereotypes due to the removal of race, Twyla and Roberta are both faced with the same problem as they do not remember Maggie’s race or how certain events occurred.

Sklar, Howard. “What the Hell Happened to Maggie?” Stereotype, Sympathy, and Disability in Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif””. University of Helsinki, December 2011,

Sklar’s article examines how while the ‘no pity’ approach when writing disabled characters reinforces the stereotype of weakness in the disabled population, Morrison’s approach while depending the narrative on Maggie for Twyla’s and Roberta’s growth, “Recitatif” paints Maggie’s identity more complexly. Morrison generates a sympathetic engagement from the readers that transcends Maggie’s role from her prosthetic role for Twyla and Roberta. Sklar’s article dives into how Morrison’s vagueness on Maggie’s disability and race, just as she removed the racial cues for Twyla and Roberta, allows the audience to self-reflect on disabled characters and perceived stereotypes one might hold for disabled people. Maggie is the crux for Twyla’s and Roberta’s divide, yet her role is more complex than just her disability. Her presence is felt throughout the story as Twyla and Roberta come to their own terms on how they treated Maggie and what truly occurred.

Stanley, Kumamoto Sandra. “Maggie in Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif”: The Africanist Presence and Disability Studies” Oxford Journals, Oxford University Press, Vol. 36, No. 2, Summer 2011, p71-88,

Stanley examines how Morrison’s “Recitatif” and its role in exposing society’s unspoken racialized codes, bringing it to the foreground. Stanley primarily focuses on the one character who generates a sense of difference from the others, Maggie, who’s disability ostracizes her from being perceived like everyone else. He questions why Morrison places Maggie in the foreground, evident in the last line “What the hell happened to Maggie?” which paints the importance of her role. When critiquing “Recitatif” critics should not be analyzing how they read Twyla and Roberta, rather how do Twyla and Roberta read Maggie? Stanley’s focus on Maggie brings in the question of her role and why she is the only character to have a perceived otherness in the story all about removing perceived notions about people. Maggie plays a crucial role in “Recitatif” while only appearing in Twyla’s and Roberta’s childhood, Morrison placing her in the epicenter of their moral epiphany and the divide in their relationship. Maggie’s purposeful ostracization has Twyla and Roberta analyzing their own biases as they don’t remember what truly occurred or her race alongside the readers self-reflection on their biases towards Twyla and Roberta.


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Beginnings and Endings: A Critical Edition Copyright © 2021 by Liza Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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