Beloved by Toni Morrison

Books That Have Taught Me About Ignorance

There are books that come into your life and change what you thought you knew. While the diversity of my reading is no where near as rich as I would like, I have read some fantastic books that have thrust me from my comfort zone and made me look at the world differently.

The following books have taught me about ignorance.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

“All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousins and my uncles. A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men. But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house. She let out her breath. I loves Harpo, she say. God knows I do. But I’ll kill him dead before I let him beat me.”

Beloved by Toni Morrison

“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”

When I learnt about slavery at school it was a past issue, atrocious but distant. It wasn’t until I read Beloved at University, and studied post-colonialism, that it became clear how ignorant I was of the continual effect of slavery and dehumanisation.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

“People who commit monstrous crimes are not necessarily monsters. If they were, things would be easy. But they aren’t and it is one of the experiences of life.”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Angelou is one of the most beautiful writers I have had the pleasure of experiencing. Her childhood in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings couldn’t have been any more different from my own. It reminded me how sheltered I was, not only by class, but because as a white person I will never experience discrimination as she did. She is unapologetic for being a smart, confident woman, I adore her.

Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford

“The beastliness of human nature is always pretty normal. We lie and betray and are wanting in imagination and deceive ourselves, always, at about the same rate. In peace and war! But, somewhere in that view there are enormous bodies of men….. If you got a still more extended range of view over this whole front you’d have still more enormous bodies of men. Seven to ten million… All moving towards places towards which they desperately don’t want to go. Desperately! Everyone of them is desperately afraid. But they go on. An immense blind will forces them in the effort to consummate the one decent action that humanity has to its credit in the whole record of history; the one we are engaged in. The effort is the one certain creditable fact in all their lives…. But the other lives of all those men are dirty, potty and discreditable little affairs…. Like yours… Like mine…”

I never thought of war as a series of loss and waiting, I’ll never thinks of PTSD in the same way.

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

“When you see an object, it seems that you see it as an entire thing first, and only afterwards do its details follow on. But for people with autism, the details jump straight out at us first of all, and then only gradually, detail by detail, does the whole image float up into focus.”

The Reason I Jump, is thirteen-year-old Naokie’s experience of being Autistic. There is nothing more illuminating and educational than a reading a book based on personal experience, I have a completely different view on what it is like to be autistic.

Special mention to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, without whom I would be in a dark hole of ignorance.

What books have taught you about ignorance?

10 thoughts on “Books That Have Taught Me About Ignorance

  1. Great quotes! I feel like most books I read teach me something or bring something to light that I hadn’t given enough consideration before. The book I just finished is a good example. Before I read Obasan by Joy Kogawa, I thought I knew the history of Japanese-Canadians, but since reading this book, I know that I didn’ t really know it. Not to the extent that I should have, anyway.


  2. I was thinking about this yesterday and two of my authors are the same as yours – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, particularly with Americanah and how the west views Africa and people with brown skin in ways that are ignorant more than anything. The other is Toni Morrison and The Bluest Eye. I read – and taught it – four or five years ago and it had a huge impact on me and my understanding of the way the idea that white skin is ‘better’ impacted on black culture and its own hierarchical system.

    Otherwise, Trumpet by Jackie Kay for gender – it’s about a jazz musician who dies and only after their death does their son discover that their father was a woman. It’s loosely based on the true story of a jazz musician who wasn’t allowed to play in clubs because she was female.

    The Time of Our Singing by Richard Powers – the history of civil rights in America told through one family. One of the sons is a classical musician.

    I’m sure there are more…great topic.


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