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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller

A beautiful, arresting story about race and the relationships that shape us through life by the legendary Nobel Prize winner - for the first time in a beautifully produced stand-alone edition, with an introduction by Zadie Smith

“A puzzle of a story, then - a game.... When [Morrison] called Recitatif an ‘experiment’ she meant it. The subject of the experiment is the reader.” (Zadie Smith, award-winning, best-selling author of White Teeth)

In this 1983 short story - the only short story Morrison ever wrote - we meet Twyla and Roberta, who have known each other since they were eight years old and spent four months together as roommates in St. Bonaventure shelter. Inseparable then, they lose touch as they grow older, only later to find each other again at a diner, a grocery store, and again at a protest. Seemingly at opposite ends of every problem, and at each other's throats each time they meet, the two women still cannot deny the deep bond their shared experience has forged between them.

Another work of genius by this masterly writer, Recitatif keeps Twyla's and Roberta's races ambiguous throughout the story. Morrison herself described Recitatif, a story which will keep listeners thinking and discussing for years to come, 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." 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?

A remarkable look into what keeps us together and what keeps us apart, and how perceptions are made tangible by reality, Recitatif is a gift to listeners in these changing times.

©1983 Toni Morrison (P)2022 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“‘Recitatif’ . . .  is ambitious, pointed, and surprisingly playful when it comes to race. Morrison described it 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’. . . . So shrewd and economical is Morrison’s storytelling, so tightly controlled is her experiment. ‘Recitatif’ is brilliant and worthy of space in your brain and bookshelf.” 
The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Nobel laureate Morrison’s only short story, originally published in 1983 and now as a slender, elegant volume enhanced by Smith’s insightful introduction, is a knockout. . . . In her captivating story, Morrison ingeniously leads readers to challenge racial stereotypes and consider nuanced power dynamics with questions that linger beyond the last page.”  The National Book Review

“Strikingly relevant. . . . We can never tell definitively which woman is White and which is Black. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. The story constantly tempts us to test our racial attitudes about clothing, food, hair, even money. . . . This is the perfect text for a country still vigorously debating the relevance of race. But the singular quality of this story makes it worthwhile, especially because the book contains a long, thoughtful introduction by Zadie Smith, who says, rightly, that ‘Recitatif’ should sit alongside ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener’ and ‘The Lottery’ ‘as a perfect—and perfectly American—tale’. . . . Smith’s illuminating discussion . . . provides a close reading and examines the way racial categories function in our allegedly post-racial culture.”  Ron Charles, Washington Post

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What listeners say about Recitatif

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Read the introduction last

This is a story about two young girls who who become friends while rooming together in an orphanage and their chance encounters over the years. I read the story after hearing about it on NPR, so I knew what Morrison intended when she wrote it. Still, I wish I read the introduction after the story so I could have read the story on its own terms. Both the introduction and the story are excellent. Both should be read, just in the opposite order.

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Review by Judy Shepp

Once again Morrison got it right 40 years before the rest of us could even think about it. Marginalized people come in all forms. And at some point we are all marginalized. Put down bullied harassed for our difference. Be it our race ethnicity gender, lack there of or our physical or mental frailties. It may happen to us at any stage of life. But one human experience is felt by all at some time. We will be treated poorly by someone somewhere merely for reflecting to them their own differences from others. The last 6 years this world has pulled back the veil of “protection “ and revealed to the world that all people are cruel at some time or another and all people fall prey to this cruelty. Morrison’s point of not naming the races of the characters helps the reader see this In it’s purest form. Bigotry prejudice discrimination hate and neglect are wherever there are people who seek to lift themselves up by hurting those they deem lesser than themselves or simply “wrong” some how in their eyes. This book isn’t simply about race . It’s about the pervasive Belief that people who are different are somehow less than human and can be treated as such. Morrison is a soothsayer and knew in 1983 what some of us are only glimpsing now.

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Excellent & Thought Provoking

As many others have mentioned, I’d highly recommend you listen to Zadie Smith’s introduction *after* listening to the short story, not before, to ensure you get the most out of it!

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Thank you Toni Morrison for writing this book.

Thank you Zadie Smith and Bahri Turpin for narrating this book and introduction. Please listen to this book.

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Eyes opening

I read the short story 1st and then went back to the introduction, On the recommendation of my sister. I was completely blown away, as I read I was trying to relate to the characters.Race and our experiences is what connects us, this book shatters that prospective