First published in 1977 Song of Solomon was Morrison's most successful novel to date. In a way it is a bildungsroman about the development of a young man, Milkman Dead, but it also taps into cultural and family memory to explore the complexities of black identity. There is an element of a puzzle, as Milkman gradually uncovers his family past and the past of his culture. Morrison shows how for black people in America, family identity is closely connected to the wider culture and history of America. In travelling South Milkman casts off the trappings of one identity - middle class modernity - and delves into his roots and true legacy. Yet there is nothing simplistic in Morrison's view of black history and identity as we see in Milkman's discovery of his Native American side and the complex blending of modes of narrative and expression. Her work could never be described as narrowly "black" fiction or "women's" fiction. Set mainly in the 1960s, the novel explores the issue of assimilation into white middle class America but it doesn't set up essentialist oppositions of black vs white society. There is an acknowledgement of the hybrid nature of America, as well as an assertion of the right of oppressed peoples to a culture and history often denied them.
Morrison deals with these issues but at the same time the novel succeeds on a dramatic level, with superb characterisation and facsinating sub-plots. It is at times angry, moving and even funny - the scene where Milkman and his friend Guitar satirise white hypocrisy towards race could be a Richard Pryor routine.
The novel confirmed Morrison as a serious writer, one who innovates technically and addresses serious themes, while maintaining a masterful grasp on plot, dialogue and characterisation.