Arifa Akbar

American Bride

God Help the Child

By Toni Morrison

Chatto & Windus 178pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

In the opening chapter of God Help the Child, Sweetness regards her newborn daughter, Lula Ann, with disgust for the darkness of her skin, many shades darker than her own and so much darker than her father’s that it leads to marital suspicion and eventual abandonment. Lulu Ann is not just black but ‘blue-black’, and Sweetness’s feelings emanate from fear of all that her child will have to contend with. Yet this, the source of so much historical shame, and blame, between past mothers and daughters, is reconfigured in contemporary America. Lula-Ann reinvents herself, in adult life, as ‘Bride’, an ambitious businesswoman working in cosmetics, not only in control of her life but also traffic-stoppingly beautiful. ‘Everywhere I went I got double takes but not like the faintly disgusted ones I used to get as a kid. These were adoring looks, stunned but hungry.’

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