Sula Critical Context
by Toni Morrison

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Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Toni Morrison’s reputation has risen with the publication of each of her novels. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), gained little public attention. Sula, her second novel, was given more serious consideration and praised, though some early reviewers focused on issues peripheral to its main intent. These two novels, along with Morrison’s succeeding works—Song of Solomon (1977); Tar Baby (1981); Beloved (1987), for which Morrison received the Pulitzer Prize; and Jazz (1992)—established her firmly as one of America’s finest writers. In 1993, Morrison’s standing as a major author was confirmed by her receipt of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Sula holds a special place in African American literature for its depiction of young women coming-of-age. It can be placed alongside such important works as Morrison’s own first novel, The Bluest Eye, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959), Louise Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner (1970), and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). It is also a powerful story of female friendship and of female courage and survival. Finally, it speaks of belonging to a family, to a home, to a place, and to a community.