Book Review: The Origin of Others
Publication Date: Sep 18, 2017
List Price: $22.95
Format: Hardcover, 136 pages
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Parent Company: Harvard University
Book Reviewed by Tony Lindsay
Toni Morrison’s, The Origin of Others causes the reader to think about identity: what group does one belong to, who are those like self, and who are those not like self? Identifying those that are not like self strengthens the identity of the group. Establishing and classifying the group as different from others is essential to group identification. We are like this, and they are like that (29-30).
Morrison argues that once the other is established, and those outside of the group are identified, equalitarian problems arise. Those outside the group can be treated another way. In her text, she points out this varied treatment, this “Othering,” in Western historical thought, in immigration, in American literature, in 19th century science, in African literature written by Europeans, and in the media. She easily links this “Othering” to racism and thoughts of supremacy based on differences.
Morrison’s The Origin of Others holds the reader accountable for their individual “Othering,” by bringing to question personal identity: what group does one belong to, why does one belong to the group, what does the group represent, and what has the group done? Within the text, Morrison critiques her own fiction addressing questions of identity and “Othering.” Her close reading of her own art inspires one to take a closer look at their own identity and to decipher individual “othering.” Reading The Origin of Others is a learning experience.