Migration, Trauma, PTSD: A Gender Study of Morrison's Jazz

Leila Tafreshi, Wan Roselezam Wan Yahya


Toni Morrison is a master of trauma literature, but trauma theory and a gender response to trauma remain largely
unaccounted for in her migration literature, specifically Jazz (1992). In Jazz, two migrant women are affected by the
same trauma, a crime of passion. But they choose different coping strategies. This causes a fundamental change to their
mental health. Toni Morrison's migrant women are not only faced with migration stress factors, but also exposed to
trauma. Managing migration stress factors in the receiving society and dealing with trauma within the migrant
community demand appropriate coping strategies. Migration and segregation dissociate the black migrant community
from the receiving society. Trauma and stigma, on the other hand, marginalize migrant women within the African-
American community. Consequently, migration, segregation, trauma and stigma lead to isolation. Lack of social ties
and social identity is associated with different mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The main aim of this study is to identify major elements of trauma theory in Toni Morrison's Jazz. Furthermore, this
article explores the coping strategies that female characters use to deal with trauma. Although extensive research has
been carried out on Jazz, no single study exists which adequately covers, migration, trauma, coping strategies and PTSD
as they affect the female characters. The novelty of this paper lies in its inter-disciplinary approach to gender and
mental health with reference to migration literature.

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