‘”Recitatif’ is the only short story Toni Morrison ever wrote. It was written in 1980 and first published in 1983 in ‘Confirmation: An Anthology of African American Women,’ edited by Amiri Baraka and Amina Baraka. In 2022, ‘Recitatif’ was published as a small stand-alone book. Toni Morrison described the 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.’ In the story, Twyla and Roberta are eight-year-old roommates for several months at the St. Bonaventure shelter. One is white and one is black, but the reader does not know which is which. They lose contact with each other, but their paths cross again later in life: once at a Howard Johnson’s, then at a grocery store, and finally at a school bussing protest. I found the story extraordinarily compelling. On the first reading, I tried to find clues about the race of each character. On the second reading, I asked myself what stereotypes or preconceived ideas about race I, as the reader, was bringing to the story. Finally, I found myself challenged by the ongoing question of the role of race in our society, what brings us together and what keeps us apart. ‘Recitative’ is a small 40-page story with a large, lingering message. The insightful introduction by the writer Zadie Smith is actually longer than the story itself; I’d recommend reading the story first, then the introduction, then the story again.” — ELLEN STEINBART, Brunswick

Mainers, please email to tell us about the book on your bedside table. In a paragraph or two, describe the book and be sure to tell us what drew you to it. What makes it a can’t-miss read for the rest of us? We want to hear what you are reading and why. Send your selection to pgrodinsky@pressherald.com, and we may use it as a future Bedside Table.

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