Recitatif: A Story - book cover
  • Publisher : Knopf
  • Published : 01 Feb 2022
  • Pages : 96
  • ISBN-10 : 0593315030
  • ISBN-13 : 9780593315033
  • Language : English

Recitatif: A Story

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A beautiful, arresting story about race and the relationships that shape us through life by the legendaryNobel Prize winner-for the first timein a beautifully producedstand-aloneedition,with an introduction by Zadie Smith
"A puzzle of a story, then-a game.... When [Morrison] called Recitatif an‘experiment' she meant it. The subject of the experiment is the reader." -Zadie Smith, award-winning, best-selling author of White Teeth

In this 1983 short story-the only short story Morrison ever wrote-we meet Twyla and Roberta, who have known each other since they were eight years old and spent four months together as roommates in St. Bonaventure shelter. Inseparable then, they lose touch as they grow older, only later to find each other again at a diner, a grocery store, and again at a protest. Seemingly at opposite ends of every problem, and at each other's throats each time they meet, the two women still cannot deny the deep bond their shared experience has forged between them.
Another work of genius by this masterly writer, Recitatif keeps Twyla's and Roberta's races ambiguous throughout the story. Morrison herself described Recitatif, a story which will keep readers thinking and discussing for years to come, as "an experiment in the removal of all racial codes from a narrative about two characters of different races for whom racial identity is crucial." We know that one is white and one is Black, but which is which? And who is right about the race of the woman the girls tormented at the orphanage?
A remarkable look into what keeps us together and what keeps us apart, and how perceptions are made tangible by reality, Recitatif is a gift to readers in these changing times.

Editorial Reviews

"‘Recitatif' . . . is ambitious, pointed, and surprisingly playful when it comes to race. Morrison described it as ‘an experiment in the removal of all racial codes from a narrative about two characters of different races for whom racial identity is crucial'. . . . So shrewd and economical is Morrison's storytelling, so tightly controlled is her experiment. ‘Recitatif' is brilliant and worthy of space in your brain and bookshelf."
-The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Nobel laureate Morrison's only short story, originally published in 1983 and now as a slender, elegant volume enhanced by Smith's insightful introduction, is a knockout. . . . In her captivating story, Morrison ingeniously leads readers to challenge racial stereotypes and consider nuanced power dynamics with questions that linger beyond the last page."
-The National Book Review

"When I return to ‘Recitatif,' it is with a renewed understanding that, along with a handful of other African Americans, Morrison was among the first to depict Black culture while also considering politics, while also considering United States history, while also considering white supremacy, while also considering economic class, while also considering gender, while also considering intergenerational trauma. As the kids might say, Toni Morrison did that."
-Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, New York Times Book Review

"Strikingly relevant. . . . We can never tell definitively which woman is White and which is Black. It shouldn't matter, but it does. The story constantly tempts us to test our racial attitudes about clothing, food, hair, even money. . . . This is the perfect text for a country still vigorously debating the relevance of race. But the singular quality of this story makes it worthwhile, especially because the book contains a long, thoughtful introduction by Zadie Smith, who says, rightly, that ‘Recitatif' should sit alongside ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener' and ‘The Lottery' ‘as a perfect-and perfectly American-tale'. . . . Smith's illuminating discussion . . . provides a close reading an...

Readers Top Reviews

S. Burwell
Not Morrison's best, but very insightful. About friendship and bonding of two young girls. One black, one white. She captures the intensity of girls' childhood friendships.