Key scenes

By Elizabeth Cali and Howard Rambsy II

The reception and conversations around key scenes in black books reveal critical moments of imaginative collaboration between author and reader. It’s no wonder that the most defining and remarkable scenes in African American novels prompt readers to discuss what exactly happened and why.

Key scenes drive the plot, situate central characters, and create important thematic emphasis in black books, for certain. But perhaps what fuses these literary elements together to make the scenes vital is that they also create an intimacy, as Toni Morrison explains it, which creates the impression that the reader “is participating in it as he goes along.”

These moments of deep familiarity where the reader “work(s) with the author in the construction of the book” are sites of return for readers, where the significance of a scene might be made over years of reading, revisiting, and discussion.