|Posted by loud&clear on February 10, 2011 at 7:41 PM|
"The Lives of Jean Toomer: A Hunger for Wholeness"
I have not read any of Jean Toomer's work as of yet, only articles, some of his poems and this book about his life. The authors try to keep Toomer's varied accomplishments in perspective. They aim to correct misunderstandings regarding Toomer's position on race and offer his concept of the "universal man"; as one beyond racial boundaries. They also look closely at Toomer's inclination toward mysticism and spirituality. The authors find that Toomer's intense need to be perfect and whole gave focus to the many passions he embraced throughout his life. Jean's self-description in 1922 was as follows:
"Racially, I seem to have (who knows for sure) seven blood mixtures: French, Dutch, Welsh, Negro, German, Jewish, and Indian. One half of my family is definitely colored.... And, I alone, as far as I know, have striven for a spiritual fusion analogous to the fact of racial intermingling."
Later in his life, about 1948, when he is plagued with illness, there remains continual unresolved problems with the black heritage of his racial make-up (his daughter Marjery was not informed of any of her racial heritage). He then says of himself:
"I do not really know myself, who I am, my selfhood, my spiritual identity, or what I am. I have some information about it, but also some misinformation, some misunderstanding, but much illusion. Real motivations? What is my aim, assuming that I have but one aim? I do not really know my wife, my child, my closest friends. I do not know anyone or anything."
I feel Jean Toomer was a man who was troubled by his heritage. He may have been better off to make a choice than to spend his life searching and hoping for a different world where race didn't matter. Although, I also feel that Jean was a head of his time in his thinking when he states that the racial issue in America would be resolved only when white America could accept the fact that its racial 'purity' was a myth...On the other hand, racial purity among blacks was just as much a myth and only encouraged defensiveness and unconscious imitation, like that of an adolescent who defines his revolt against his parents by the very values he is trying to renounce. Race, he said, was a fictional construct, of no use for understanding people." More of my review at Amazon.com
Categories: Book Reviews