January 16, 2018 at 8:15 am

Distel Publishes Chapter in New Toni Morrison Volume

Kristin Distel, portrait

Kristin Distel

Kristin Distel, doctoral candidate of English literature, published a chapter in a new volume on Toni Morrison. Her chapter, titled “‘Are you sure she was your sister?’: Sororal Love and Maternal Failure in Toni Morrison’s Paradise,” considers the ways in which sisters serve as mother figures in Morrison’s 1997 novel.

The volume, Toni Morrison on Mothers and Motherhood, is edited by Lee Baxter and Martha Satz and published by Demeter Press.

A Novel Take on Morrison’s Mothers

Paradise violates Morrison’s well-known concept of ‘motherlove,’ most viscerally represented in Beloved, and replaces it with steadfast ‘sisterlove,’ with a sense of solidarity that is inherent to the sororal relationship. Sororal kinships privilege solidarity and reject shame, whereas loyalty is noncompulsory within mother-child bonds,” Distel explains.

Much of the volume examines the fierce love that Morrison’s maternal characters have for their children—a love that often gives rise to violence.

Distel’s chapter positions sisters as loving, compassionate, and stable maternal figures in the face of the many abusive and disloyal mothers who appear in Morrison’s Paradise.

Book cover, headshot of Toni Morrison

“The attachment inherent within the sororal bond is crucial throughout Morrison’s oeuvre, but it is especially fundamental to an understanding of Paradise and its complex explorations of sisters, solidarity, and the flawed model of female relationships provided by Christian theology, which Morrison criticizes,” Distel writes.

‘These Essays Are Essential Reading’

The volume has received strong reviews from Morrison scholars.

“The essays in Toni Morrison on Mothers and Motherhood explore Morrison’s complex and nuanced treatment of mothering. The collection strongly enriches the scholarship on Morrison Studies, providing original insights into her earlier work and, importantly, illuminating her recent novels, such as Home and God Help the Child,” states Anissa Janine Wardi, Professor of English at Chatham University.

“This collection on Toni Morrison’s oeuvre reshapes definitions of mothering in her novels and expands our working knowledge of families under intersectional pressures, both in the works and in the world. … These essays are essential reading for those interested in mothering and Morrison,” says Nicole L. Willey, Professor of English at Kent State University Tuscarawas.

Toni Morrison on Mothers and Motherhood is available from Demeter Press, Amazon (paperback and Kindle formats), and other booksellers.

Additional Research and Publications

Distel has recently published scholarly articles on Kate Chopin, Larry Levis, Natasha Trethewey, Phillis Wheatley, Mather Byles, and Toni Morrison. Her co-edited volume, a reissue of Sherwood Anderson’s The Triumph of the Egg, will be published by Hastings College Press in 2018.

Distel has recently presented papers at the Sorbonne, The University of Oxford, The University of Manchester, the Modern Language Association, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and many other venues.

Her poems have been published in Glass, Coldnoon, The Minetta Review, Flyover Country Review, The Broken Plate, The Stockholm Review of Literature, and elsewhere.

More information about Distel’s research and publications is available via her website.


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