"Mayberry charts important new territory in Toni Morrison studies and African American masculinity studies with this original and daring analysis of the complicated, wide-spirited lives of Morrison’s male characters. Grounded in the growing body of work on black masculinity of the past decade and couched in attentiveness to the nuances of the author’s tragic and comic modes, Can’t I Love What I Criticize? reflects and refracts Morrison’s critical compassion for African American men caught between a rock and a hard place. Mayberry’s unerring ability to tease out Morrison’s dense webs of 'perpetual possibility' in the threatened lives of black men pushes conversations about race and gender in American culture to a new level. This is a book that Morrison readers and scholars will be consulting and responding to for years to come."
—Minrose Gwin, author of The Woman in the Red Dress: Gender, Space and Reading
The book also considers the barriers between black men and women thrown up by their participation in a larger, historically racist culture of competition, ownership, sexual repression, and fixed ideals about physical beauty and romantic love. Black women, Morrison says, bear their crosses “extremely well,” and black men, although they have been routinely emasculated by “white men, period,” have managed to maintain a feisty “magic” that everybody wants but nobody else has.
Understanding Morrison’s treatment of her male characters, says Susan Mayberry, becomes crucial to grasping her success in “countering the damage done by a spectrum of sometimes misguided isms”--including white American feminism. Morrison’s version of masculinity suggests that black men have “successfully retained their special vitality in spite of white male resistance” and that “their connections to black women have saved their lives.” To single out her men is not to negate the preeminence of her women; rather, it is to recognize the interconnectedness and balance between them.
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