It’s been over a year since Jamila Woods released her landmark sophomore album Legacy! Legacy!. Each track on the record is named after a different artist of color like “Basquiat” and “Baldwin.” Now, the singer is remembering the late author Toni Morrison, who died just a few months after Woods released last year’s album.
Woods debuted the single “Sula (Paperback)” Thursday, inspired by Morrison’s 1973 novel Sula. The book was the first Woods had ever read by Morrison, and the singer was instantly inspired by Morrison’s depiction of the relationship between protagonists Sula Peace and Nel Wright.
About the novel and song, Woods said, “It’s the first Toni Morisson novel I ever read and it inspired the first chapbook of poems I ever wrote. The novel shows the evolution of a friendship between two Black women and how they choose to navigate society’s strict gender roles and rules of respectability. On Sula, Toni Morrison wrote, ‘living totally by the law and surrendering totally to it without questioning anything sometimes makes it impossible to know anything about yourself.’ Returning to the story several years later, it gave me permission to reject confining ideas about my identity designed to shrink my spirit. It reminded me to embrace my tenderness, my sensitivities, my ways of being in my body. This song is a mantra to allow myself space to experience my gender, love, intimacy, and sexuality on my own terms.”
Listen to “Sula (Paperback)” above.
Legacy! Legacy! is out now via Jagjaguwar.