Recitatif: A Story

Penguin Random House. Feb. 2022. 1:54 hrs. ISBN 9780593460573. $12.50. F
Nobel Laureate Morrison’s only short story, originally published in 1983, is now available as a stand-alone edition with an insightful introduction by novelist Zadie Smith. The audio is sensitively rendered by consummate narrator, Bahni Turpin. The story follows two girls, Twyla and Roberta, who first meet at a state institution when they are children, and whose lives continue to intersect over the ensuing decades. Morrison described this story as an “experiment,” for, while listeners know that one of the girls is Black, and the other is white, Morrison refuses to say which is which. As Smith points out in her introduction, Morrison’s “puzzle of a story, then a game” forces listeners to confront their own carefully guarded conceptions of race, as they constantly search for clues to the girls’ racial identities, only to ask themselves why they are so intent on knowing. Turpin’s skillful narration beautifully complements Morrison’s words. With fluidity and grace, Turpin captures the quicksilver turns of this story, seamlessly communicating the many emotions—affection, understanding, regret, and anger—that make this story so much more than it seems.
VERDICT This powerful and important production is not to be missed.
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