ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From Periphery to Centre: Toni Morrison's Self Affirming Fiction

The racist and sexist structure of American society compartmentalises its various ethnic groups, denigrates the coloured as inferior and characterises female and male as being located at the margin and the centre respectively. Toni Morrison's novels explore a world of inter-locking system of race, class and sex oppression which is seen as a threat to Black women's psychological survival.

"I write for black women. We are not addressing the men, as some white female writers do. We are not attacking each other, as both black and white men do. Black women writers look at things in an unforgiving loving way. They are writing to repossess, rename, reown,"1 Toni Morrison told an interviewer. She belongs to a group of writers in America for whom writing is a liberating tool, a subversive strategy and an artistic mode for self expression, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Toni Cade Bambara, Gloria Nay lor and Paule Marshall are exploring how the intersection of race, class and gender in the American society influences the shaping of Black female life. In the manner of Edward Said who exposed orientalism "as a western style for dominating, restructuring and having authority over the Orient/' these writers are exposing the distortion of Black reality by the dominant group for its vested interest. They refute the hierarchical order shaped by the concepts of centre and periphery and question the ideology on which the order is based. They arc simultaneously engaged in the project of constructing an Acrocentric perspective and evolving an AfricanAmerican poetics. In a spirit of selfaffirmation they are accentuating their distinctive features and celebrating the difference from the mainstream.

Exploring the complexity of Black female experience in white America, Morrison in her writing attempts to resolve the contradiction inherent in her AfricanAmerican identity. Conscious of her own marginalisation within the context of the mainstream she started valuing her peripheral existence because, "it was deeper, more complex, it had a tension, it related to the centre but wasn't the centre."2 In her novels Morrison explores the interesting possibilities that her position offers. She told Salman Rushdie in a telephone interview:

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