The Origin of Others
America's foremost novelist reflects on the themes that preoccupy her work and increasingly dominate national and world politics: race, fear, borders, the mass movement of peoples, the desire for belonging. What is race and why does it matter? What motivates the human tendency to construct Others? Why does the presence of Others make us so afraid?Drawing on her Norton Lectures, Toni Morrison takes up these and other vital questions bearing on identity in The Origin of Others. In her search for answers, the novelist considers her own memories as well as history, politics, and especially literature. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, and Camara Laye are among the authors she examines. Readers of Morrison's fiction will welcome her discussions of some of her most celebrated books--Beloved, Paradise, and A Mercy.If we learn racism by example, then literature plays an important part in the history of race in America, both negatively and positively. Morrison writes about nineteenth-century literary efforts to romance slavery, contrasting them with the scientific racism of Samuel Cartwright and the banal diaries of the plantation overseer and slaveholder Thomas Thistlewood. She looks at configurations of blackness, notions of racial purity, and the ways in which literature employs skin color to reveal character or drive narrative. Expanding the scope of her concern, she also addresses globalization and the mass movement of peoples in this century. National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates provides a foreword to Morrison's most personal work of nonfiction to date.

The Origin of Others Details

TitleThe Origin of Others
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 18th, 2017
PublisherHarvard University Press
ISBN-139780674976450
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Writing, Essays, History, Cultural, African American, Politics, Books About Books, Race

The Origin of Others Review

  • Book Riot Community
    January 1, 1970
    DISCLAIMER: I have not read this book, which is the transcripts of a series of lectures Morrison gave about the themes that preoccupy her books. But I feel like it’s not getting any press anywhere, and how can that be, when people need to know that there’s a new ToMo book out in the world!!! And even better, with an introduction by Ta-Nehisi Coates! Consider yourself informed now.Backlist bump: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi CoatesTune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new DISCLAIMER: I have not read this book, which is the transcripts of a series of lectures Morrison gave about the themes that preoccupy her books. But I feel like it’s not getting any press anywhere, and how can that be, when people need to know that there’s a new ToMo book out in the world!!! And even better, with an introduction by Ta-Nehisi Coates! Consider yourself informed now.Backlist bump: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi CoatesTune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books: http://bookriot.com/listen/shows/allt...
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  • Olivia
    January 1, 1970
    I wish I was 1/8 as smart as Toni Morrison’s thumb.
  • Kathrin
    January 1, 1970
    Separating the "us" from the "other" has been used to strengthen the "us" in order to have a common enemy. It's a strategy to peg groups of people against each other. Toni Morrison's reviews this concept of "othering" with examples in literary works of her own and of other authors. This collection of essays is very current in the light of the political climate in the USA, but also on a grander scale due to globalization and the refugee crisis in Europe.
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  • Sue Dix
    January 1, 1970
    Since this book only took me a day to read, I will likely go back and read it again. Contained in it's 111 pages is so much that cannot possibly be absorbed in one read through. From the introduction through to the end of the 6th lecture, there is so much that we still need to learn, that I still need to learn. To deconstruct the "Other", we must know her and face her and realize that she is us. "Race is the classification of a species, and we are the human race, period." I highly recommend this Since this book only took me a day to read, I will likely go back and read it again. Contained in it's 111 pages is so much that cannot possibly be absorbed in one read through. From the introduction through to the end of the 6th lecture, there is so much that we still need to learn, that I still need to learn. To deconstruct the "Other", we must know her and face her and realize that she is us. "Race is the classification of a species, and we are the human race, period." I highly recommend this book.
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  • Salvatore
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting that she dives into her own fiction to elucidate some of the issues of race and power structures in America that her novels already seems to embody. I was hoping these lectures turned essays would ride closer to Playing in the Dark - as in a close reading of Hemingway and Faulkner and O'Connor. Some points I wish were further explored. Guess I just have to wait for her next novel!
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  • David Rush
    January 1, 1970
    Race it the classification of a species and we are the human race, period. Then what is this other thing – the hostility, the social racism, the Othering? Pg. 15I especially appreciated the first part of this book with its focus of “Being or Becoming the Stranger” which is really the starting point to think about racism. I suppose the idea of “the Other” it is a starting point for thinking about humans in all aspects of engagement with the world and could be applied to not just people, but anima Race it the classification of a species and we are the human race, period. Then what is this other thing – the hostility, the social racism, the Othering? Pg. 15I especially appreciated the first part of this book with its focus of “Being or Becoming the Stranger” which is really the starting point to think about racism. I suppose the idea of “the Other” it is a starting point for thinking about humans in all aspects of engagement with the world and could be applied to not just people, but animals, trees, anything really. My interpretation is that labeling things “other” is an attempt to find our place in the world / universe. And sometimes it goes horribly wrong.But to get back to this book, she has an example how the process can start simply enough…To understand that I was longing for and missing some aspect of myself and that there are no strangers. There are only versions of ourselves, many of which we have not embraced, most of which we wish to protect ourselves from. For the stranger is not foreign, she is random; not alien but remembered; and it is the randomness of the encounter with our already known – although unacknowledged – selves that summons a ripple of alarm. That makes us reject the figure and the emotions it provokes - especially when those emotions are profound. It is also what makes us want to own, govern, and administrate the Other. Pg. 38But what comes from dealing with our own psyche grows in a more sinister direction once power applied(Discussing the Aryan and Caucasian race)…Baum concludes, among other things, “Race, in short, is an effect of power.”---So when we speak or write of the stranger, the outsider, the Other, we should keep in mind what the relationship signifies. Pg 25This reminded me of Kendi’s book (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ) where he observes the drive for money (power) first drove enslavement and from there really followed classic racism and then hatred. For a good portion of the last half of her book she covers parts of her own novels. Which is fine but I think I would have gotten more out of it here if I had read them. I feel I should have by this point in my life, but I haven’t, so when she brings them up I felt a little lost.Toward the end she brings up From Radiance of the King by Camara Laye, and I have to go find this book about a clueless European traveling alone through Africa.What counts as intelligence among these Africans is not prejudice but nuance, and the ability and willingness to see, to surmise. The European’s refusal to meditate coherently on any even except the ones that concern his comfort or survival dooms him. Pg.109I wonder if she is saying the European world view makes it easier for the labeling of others and the horrifying development to full racism? I really like the book, but my only quibble is I wish she had spent more time working over how this process of “Othering” happens. Or maybe why it doesn’t happen sometimes? Or does it always happen? But I think these essays came from a lecture series so maybe I was look for a more complete connection of the topics than was intended.Still, read it.
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  • Joslyn Allen
    January 1, 1970
    Review published: https://chronicbibliophilia.wordpress..."Language (saying, listening, reading) can encourage, even mandate, surrender, the breach of distances among us, whether they are continental or on the same pillow, whether they are distances of culture or the distinctions and indistinctions of age or gender, whether they are the consequences of social invention or biology."On this day - September 12, 2017 - the newest works of two heavyweights are being released to likely widely differin Review published: https://chronicbibliophilia.wordpress..."Language (saying, listening, reading) can encourage, even mandate, surrender, the breach of distances among us, whether they are continental or on the same pillow, whether they are distances of culture or the distinctions and indistinctions of age or gender, whether they are the consequences of social invention or biology."On this day - September 12, 2017 - the newest works of two heavyweights are being released to likely widely differing attention. Hillary Clinton's memoir assessing and assigning blame for her tumultuous loss in the 2016 presidential campaign is on the tip of everyone's tongue and at the top of every news feed. What isn't likely to get the buzz and analysis that "What Happened" is enjoying is Toni Morrison's new release,"The Origin of Others". This small but weighty treatise, drawn from Morrison's Norton Lectures, also reflects on the current socio-political climate, particularly on how 'othering' informs history, politics, and literature.One would face little argument in placing Toni Morrison among the greatest living American writers, and this work is introduced by a foreword from another, Ta-nehisi Coates. In the foreword, Coates beautifully captures the premise of Morrison's collection:"This is a work about the creation of aliens and the erection of fences, one that employs literary criticism, history, and memoir in an attempt to understand how and why we have come to associate those fences with pigment."This premise is one of great promise and desperate timeliness, and this collection of essays is deeply informative and flawlessly composed. What it isn't, unfortunately, is the commanding, mesmerizing voice one has come to expect from Toni Morrison. I suspect that hearing Morrison deliver these thoughts in their original lecture format would have been powerful and impactful. Their tenor and tone as essays, however, are constricted by their origin as lectures; in the place of narrative flow, one finds frequent quotations and a pedantic tone that just don't translate well to the page. I suspect that her agents and she herself are well aware of that fact, thus the relatively quiet release by a small publishing house. "The Origin of Others" is a less successful work by an inimitable author, but one which is timely in its content and as part of America's struggle to understand 'what happened' and how can we change what we have become. In no way does its measured success diminish her voice, her body of work, or her stature among the greats.
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  • Zach
    January 1, 1970
    America: read Morrison. everything.
  • Tina
    January 1, 1970
    This was great and makes me want to read all the Toni Morrison things. I read Beloved in tenth grade, I think, and I know I need to revisit that, if not read something else by her.Lots to think about in here, including in Ta-Nehisi Coates's introduction."Race is the classification of a species, and we are the human race, period. Then what is this other thing— the hostility, the social racism, the Othering? What is the nature of Othering’s comfort, its allure, its power (social, psychological, or This was great and makes me want to read all the Toni Morrison things. I read Beloved in tenth grade, I think, and I know I need to revisit that, if not read something else by her.Lots to think about in here, including in Ta-Nehisi Coates's introduction."Race is the classification of a species, and we are the human race, period. Then what is this other thing— the hostility, the social racism, the Othering? What is the nature of Othering’s comfort, its allure, its power (social, psychological, or economical)? Is it the thrill of belonging— which implies being part of something bigger than one’s solo self, and therefore stronger? My initial view leans toward the social / psychological need for a “stranger,” an Other in order to define the estranged self (the crowd seeker is always the lonely one)."-Toni Morrison
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  • Anthony
    January 1, 1970
    Riveting, necessary, a feat of genius. The sheer wealth of knowledge plus the articulate enforcement of questioning, which each unique essay, all parts of the entire effort, commands. I'm definitely planning a revisit.
  • Beverlee
    January 1, 1970
    I admit to believing Toni Morrison’s writing is perfect. Reading The Origin of Others only reinforces this belief. This book is an examination of prevalent themes in Morrison’s work such as color-ism, racism, and slavery especially in the novels Paradise, Beloved, and The Bluest Eye. Why is literature set up so that one group is seen as acceptable, wholly realized individuals and any person not belonging to that group seen as other or less than? We know literature most likely is rooted in realit I admit to believing Toni Morrison’s writing is perfect. Reading The Origin of Others only reinforces this belief. This book is an examination of prevalent themes in Morrison’s work such as color-ism, racism, and slavery especially in the novels Paradise, Beloved, and The Bluest Eye. Why is literature set up so that one group is seen as acceptable, wholly realized individuals and any person not belonging to that group seen as other or less than? We know literature most likely is rooted in reality even if the events described did not occur. Is this set up in place to reinforce an idea of supremacy of over another? Can the roles ever be reversed? These questions are a few that are answered and I think can be applied to the current political environment surrounding the 45th President of the US. My favorite lines- “the danger of sympathizing with the stranger is the possibility of becoming the stranger. To lose one’s racial-ized rank is to lose one’s own valued and enshrined difference.” “I am determined to de-fang cheap racism, annihilate & discredit the routine, easy, available color fetish, which is reminiscent of slavery itself.”“Provoking language or eclipsing it, an image can determine not only what we know and feel but also what we believe is worth knowing about what we feel.”
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  • Jess
    January 1, 1970
    There is a lot to unpack from this tiny book, and I’ll probably be thinking about it for days. Even so, even understanding that it is coming from her lectures and therefore can only be so long, I wish she had been able to expand on each topic a little more. I have a lot of thoughts and they are incomplete, because her picture is incomplete. (This is of course why I leaned more towards history than literary theory in my Humanities program, but that’s a story for another day.)
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  • CaitlynK
    January 1, 1970
    "Narrative fiction provides a controlled wilderness, an opportunity to be and to become the Other. The stranger. With sympathy, clarity, and the risk of self-examination."Frankly, I love Toni Morrison, and, since reading her Paris Review interview, have especially appreciated the candor and straightforwardness of her non-fiction. She talks about people in a way that feels true, a universal way that speaks to her views on division within the human race.Running through the social and historical co "Narrative fiction provides a controlled wilderness, an opportunity to be and to become the Other. The stranger. With sympathy, clarity, and the risk of self-examination."Frankly, I love Toni Morrison, and, since reading her Paris Review interview, have especially appreciated the candor and straightforwardness of her non-fiction. She talks about people in a way that feels true, a universal way that speaks to her views on division within the human race.Running through the social and historical commentary is a discussion about literature, including the author's own. Prominent in one chapter is Morrison's Paradise, my favorite of her novels and the one I'd most recommend to anyone looking to delve into her work. It is a little strange to have the curtain drawn back so starkly, but given the circumstances (Morrison's aims and methods are shown in the context of the decades of fiction that came before, the simplistic images she's writing against, or around, or because of), it does what she needs it to.
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  • Rob
    January 1, 1970
    This slim book packs volumes within. While reading it, I realized it is impossible for a white person to have full autonomy of empathy for African Americans, for their besieged perspective is too complicated and full of unjust brutality for whites to truly understand. For example, I grew up in an insulated small white town without any notion of the suffering, discrimination, and brutal hate inflicted on African Americans outside of my life of privilege. However, Morrison's book should be requir This slim book packs volumes within. While reading it, I realized it is impossible for a white person to have full autonomy of empathy for African Americans, for their besieged perspective is too complicated and full of unjust brutality for whites to truly understand. For example, I grew up in an insulated small white town without any notion of the suffering, discrimination, and brutal hate inflicted on African Americans outside of my life of privilege. However, Morrison's book should be required reading for all white people, which may render an awareness that can begin to bridge the gap of disparity. Whites--in power--can never know the genuine African American experience, yet they can bring about change and reprarations long over due to the maligned race of African Americans. Toni Morrison is a voice that should be heard by all, and then perhaps the healing may begin for our nation in these devisive times.
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  • Kathryn
    January 1, 1970
    This made me dream that I could have had the opportunity to sit in even one of Morrison's lectures. I most appreciated her explanation of the historical prompts behind two of her books, Paradise (which no one seems to care about) and Beloved (which everyone seems to care about). It helped me be in even more awe of her grounded and seemingly ever-real but fantastic imagination. The thing about it though, is her nonfiction in some capacity just points back to her fiction; she has already illuminat This made me dream that I could have had the opportunity to sit in even one of Morrison's lectures. I most appreciated her explanation of the historical prompts behind two of her books, Paradise (which no one seems to care about) and Beloved (which everyone seems to care about). It helped me be in even more awe of her grounded and seemingly ever-real but fantastic imagination. The thing about it though, is her nonfiction in some capacity just points back to her fiction; she has already illuminated over and over and over again so much of what she says here about othering, power, and the fabrication of race. If you are less familiar with her fiction (or uninterested in interpreting fictional texts from Faulkner, Hemingway, etc.) you should probably start there first.
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  • Mark Valentine
    January 1, 1970
    I had a great respect for Morrison before encountering these short meditations and instructions on Otherness in culture and after this, it got deeper. She scrapes off the caked dirt from the bones of racism--that deep, ancient hatred that existed even before race--and shows that miserable Slavery was in dehumanizing Africans in ways beyond barbarism: miscegenation, no status as humans, lynchings....Additionally, she writes about her own books and gives clues about their construction. In this reg I had a great respect for Morrison before encountering these short meditations and instructions on Otherness in culture and after this, it got deeper. She scrapes off the caked dirt from the bones of racism--that deep, ancient hatred that existed even before race--and shows that miserable Slavery was in dehumanizing Africans in ways beyond barbarism: miscegenation, no status as humans, lynchings....Additionally, she writes about her own books and gives clues about their construction. In this regard, the book's value becomes larger than its pocket size.
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  • Julia
    January 1, 1970
    A tiny book based on a recent lecture series the author gave. I enjoyed the examination of historical and contemporary racism (and other issues) linked with literature (both the author's own work and others). I am extra motivated to revisit the author's backlist, as well as some of the other works she mentioned, with this extra awareness.
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  • Mariam
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent bookShort and sweet, Morrison walks the readers through literature, racism/race, whiteness, and the creation of the Other. The Foreign. This is a crucial piece and Morrison explores themes that will undoubtedly grow in importance in years to come. Highly recommend for folks interested in racial theory, literature, and transnationalism.
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  • Riet
    January 1, 1970
    Dit is een klein boekje (letterlijk) en bestaat uit uittreksels van een aantal lezingen van Toni Morrison. Zij geeft een aantal ideeen over de rassenproblemen in Amerika. Zij legt het soms uit aan de hand van de boeken, die zij geschreven heeft. Zij schrijft goed, maar ik vond in dit boek niet veel nieuwe inzichten. Wel denk ik, dat ik een aantal van haar boeken opnieuw zal lezen.
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  • Debbie Jacob
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting reading for these times when xenophobia has been taken to a whole new level. Each essay examines how we have defined ourselves in literature, history and life by our relationship with others. Do we need to feel a sense of worth by comparing ourselves to those "others" that we feel are lesser beings than ourselves. A thoroughly thought-provoking read.
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  • Sunny
    January 1, 1970
    All three of the latest Morrison books I've just read and reread are being reviewed, but for the moment, "The Origin of Others" and "Playing in the Dark" are must-reads for anyone interested in the connection between American literature and American racism. I think both books require an open mind and the ability to face some very uncomfortable truths.
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  • Alma Tello
    January 1, 1970
    Don’t be fooled by the small size and shortness of this book! Toni Morrison has done it again, giving us a feast for thought on race and racism. This reads more as literary criticism through the lens of race and the construct of Others. Worth reading as a pairing with the new book by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Ms. Morrison alluded to a new book in progress....I can’t wait!
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  • Donnajo
    January 1, 1970
    Read/review for BooktowneThis book is a eye opener. A lecture series the author did at Harvard Universally. Not my usual type of book to read but I enjoyed it and had my thinking about it long after finishing it. A fast read but had it take it in short bits.
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  • Cynthia
    January 1, 1970
    I started reading Toni Morrison in college, and have read almost everything she wrote. As with her other essays (Playing in the Dark), this small book taught me things. Her idea that whites, in an effort to justify their actions against blacks, became extraordinarily sadistic--that psychological insight and the generosity of a sort Morrison shows in having it; the idea that the construct of whiteness separates poor whites from their black brothers and gives them an illusion of power over them, a I started reading Toni Morrison in college, and have read almost everything she wrote. As with her other essays (Playing in the Dark), this small book taught me things. Her idea that whites, in an effort to justify their actions against blacks, became extraordinarily sadistic--that psychological insight and the generosity of a sort Morrison shows in having it; the idea that the construct of whiteness separates poor whites from their black brothers and gives them an illusion of power over them, and that the illusion of whiteness helped immigrants assimilate . . . She is so smart and generous. The notations the white slaveholder makes in his notebook every time he rapes a slave of his (Sup. Terr, Sup. Lect.), along with the notations about the price of sugarcane or flour. The list of horrifically violent actions taken against blacks as recently as the 70s. The interrogation of white men's literature--Hemingway--and of white women's literature--O Connor--to talk about the ways whites think about and use race. I also appreciated her descriptions of her own works--who Margaret Garvey really was, and what happened to her; the impulses behind Paradise. I also appreciated the introduction by Ta Nahesi Coats.
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  • Robin
    January 1, 1970
    As usual, with Toni Morrison, I’ll have to re-read this. There is so much there. The origin of others is mostly in our minds. And how do we think about others? This is a very thought-provoking short book. I’ll be thinking about it for a long time. Wish I could have heard her give these lectures.
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  • Matthew
    January 1, 1970
    This may be my first experience with Morrison's non fiction. I have currently read all of her novels with the exception of "Paradise." This short essay may be small in text, but is huge in content. Thought provoking and worth a re read.
  • Juliet
    January 1, 1970
    The Color Fetish was my favorite chapter. If you love American writers, this is a must-read. Doesn't have the answers but uses examples of race used in literature as racism, "otherness" and what it means to be American.
  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting. Morrison packs quite a figurative punch in this slim volume. It's easy to see and read why she is a Pulitzer Prize winning author. Even here (not writing her usual fiction), she writes with a richness that places an emphasis on what's really important.
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  • Samantha Colwell
    January 1, 1970
    As always, Toni Morrison for President. Toni Morrison for Czarina of the Universe.
  • Lisa Beyersdoerfer
    January 1, 1970
    I liked where she was going with the themes, but it felt unfinished. 3.5
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