Recitatif: A Story by Toni Morrison, introduction by Zadie Smith
A beautiful, arresting short story by Toni Morrison—the only one she ever wrote—about race and the relationships that shape us through life, with an introduction by Zadie Smith.
Twyla and Roberta have known each other since they were eight years old and spent four months together as roommates in the St. Bonaventure shelter. Inseparable at the time, they lose touch as they grow older, only to find each other later at a diner, then at a grocery store, and again at a protest. Seemingly at opposite ends of every problem, and in disagreement each time they meet, the two women still cannot deny the deep bond their shared experience has forged between them.
Written in 1980 and anthologized in a number of collections, this is the first time Recitatif is being published as a stand-alone hardcover. In the story, Twyla’s and Roberta’s races remain ambiguous. 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?
Morrison herself described this story 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.” Recitatif is a remarkable look into what keeps us together and what keeps us apart, and about how perceptions are made tangible by reality.