Toni Morrison’s novels force you to look at the legacy of slavery. And in ‘The Bluest Eye’ the heart wrenching self-hatred of the young black, female protagonist will break your heart. More importantly, it will make you angry and aware of the society that focuses on the color of someone’s skin which in turn drove a young girl insane. When you first see Nessa Tyler she’s reading that same book, while getting her hair braided. For this young girl and her brother they grow up to become heroes unlike any you’ve seen before.
Nessa and Piru Tyler are ‘good Americans.’ They believe in their country, but when something isn’t right you have to make a stand. As a reporter Nessa believed she could help her scientist brother by exposing what the government intended to do with his invention. They soon realize that prayers are answered and their blackness saves them in the bowels of a volcano. Like a rebirth these siblings are resurrected to become protectors, healers and fighters for the ancient African gods who bring them back to life. Even more arresting than the situation Nessa and Piru find themselves in is the artwork of Crystal Crossley. As Nessa is reborn as ‘Volcano Woman’ her bald head and luminous white wings show strength of purpose. Its magical realism and Afrofuturism come to life. Nessa is the embodiment of a life-giver. Her powers give people the ability to start again. Her blackness becomes an asset, it makes her worthy of what the gods have given her.
For a nemesis writer Kola Boof has given the siblings the devil’s daughter. And she doesn’t take it well when her birthright is challenged. On arrival to Philadelphia she calls the African-Americans worse than lost pennies. Even in the volcano having been chosen to be champions the other gods question why these blacks from America are saved. These nuanced comments reflects the deep chasm between people who share a common ancestry. And even in the eyes of black people there is still the sense of the other. But Nessa becomes Volcano Woman, when lives are in danger she transforms into a super, badass who feels the world burn then turns it on her enemies. Meanwhile Piru is wondering what happened to his life. His deaf mother told him its right to defend yourself, his homophobic grandmother accepted him for who he is. He’s always had to fight just to exist. They both struggle, but they also learn how to survive.
There are two special pages in book one of all the women who’ve inspired Nessa to become the strong, black woman she’s become. Looking in that women she sees the strength of athletes, public speakers, reporters, actresses, models and then Wonder Woman. It shows two things; she wasn’t aware of Nubia, the twin sister of the Amazon princess and that she did not dream she could be her own wonder woman. Representation is important. When you look in the mirror seeing the women who have shaped your world view it shouldn’t be a luxury that they share the same hue. But Volcano Woman is not Wonder Woman or Nubia, she is her own super woman. Then there’s Helena. In book one she helps Nessa and Piru. And Shane Champion whose life has become another inheritance from being enslaved. His mother is racist to the extent of dictating that he marry a white woman, all because she doesn’t want any grandchildren of color. It’s the continuation of the idea of black people having no worth even to each other. But Shane sees the goddess within Nessa and he may compel himself to go against his conditioning.
Book Two continues on with the struggle as Volcano Woman meets the devil’s daughter. White hair, light skin and blue eyes, the Nameless Daughter channels what looks like lightning when she uses her powers. She’s determined to destroy Africa. Hers is also a type of self-hatred. She is compelled to eradicate what she cannot become. Still, no matter how hateful, evil has to be born into this world. The Nameless Daughter racist epithets towards Volcano Woman is furthering the idea of what happens when you are torn away from your culture. The product of the devil and a white wolf, she is unnatural, just as unnatural as her hate for dark skinned people. Boof does not hold back in utilizing all her characters to get her message across.
Book Three is aptly named ‘Birth of Winter.’ On the cover we see Volcano Woman nursing an infant and in the split screen Nessa’s face nestled within the clouds. But in the far off right corner is young black girl with blond hair and you want to know what her story is.
In order for you to allow that inner god or goddess to shine writer Kola Boof shows us that you must face your emotional baggage. For Nessa and Piru, they have to cleanse their past in order to move forward. With that a new villain emerges. Unapologetically, Boof writes from experience. As a mother, an African woman, a former Muslim she has seen and experienced hate. Through that she has created a compelling narrative where black people take agency. These are real superheroes born out of modern times.
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