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TIDE BOOK CLUB: The Origin of Others

 By Amy Sikalis

In February 2023 the TIDE Committee Book Club reviewed “The Origin of Others” by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison.  

“Other” is defined as “A view of treatment (a person or a group of people) as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself” by example, “a critique of the ways in which the elderly are othered by society”.  The book “Origin of Others” by Toni Morrison, is a set of short stories and narratives with strong themes of being on the outside, not being accepted and therefore “other” through context of race, circumstance, speech/use of language and imagery. 

One story is about the Town of Ruby (based on Morrison’s book “Paradise) a town of 360 black people who have chosen isolation for themselves in the face of pervasive racism, hoping to preserve the purity of their utopia.     

Hardcover The Origin of Others Book

Another story is of Margaret Garner who is the main character named “Sethe” in Toni Morrison’s book “Beloved”.  Margaret Garner was a run-away slave who killed her own 2-year-old daughter so that her child would not be raised as a slave and subject to the severe and inhumane treatment the enslaved endured.  Margaret was caught, sent to jail, and subsequently found guilty of destroying property as opposed to being found guilty of murder.  Had she been tried for murder she would have been established as having human rights.  After her trial, she was sent back into slavery, along with her husband.  Abolitionists wanted Margaret tried for murder which would have set a few precedents for human rights including an enslaved person’s rights and responsibility regarding their own children.  Her story advanced the conflict between abolitionists and the defenders of slavery, in part leading to the Civil War.  

The book was not liked by everyone in the group, but those who participated in the discussion shared incongruent feelings based on the impactful content and the discussion had a focus on the “why” of those emotions.     

The quote from the book, “a huge needy homeland to which we were said to belong but which none of us had seen or carefully to see, inhabited by people with whom we maintained a delicate relationship of mutual ignorance and disdain, and with whom we shared a mythology of passive, traumatized Otherness cultivated by textbooks, films, cartoons, and the hostile name calling children learn to love” (page 101) leave us with much to ponder the pervasiveness of “otherness” and reminds us to be diligent in our daily quest for change. 

Amy Sikalis is the Administrative Director of Radiology and Imaging Sciences Research and a member of the department’s TIDE Committee

Jace King, PhD is Assistant Professor Radiology and Imaging Sciences and co-Chair of the department’s TIDE Committee of the department's TIDE Committee.