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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Author Toni Morrison has died

Toni Morrison receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Toni Morrison- February 18, 1931 to August 5, 2019.

Toni Morrison, author of eleven novels about the black experience, has died and the world, along with this blogger, is mourning today.

Here are a few morsels I have gleaned about this towering author today as I prepared to write this post:
  • Toni Morrison won the 1993 Nobel Laureate in literature. The Nobel Academy said that her novels were "characterized by visionary force and poetic import." And that she "gives life to an essential aspect of the American experience."
  • "Her prose, often luminous and incantatory, rings with the cadences of black oral tradition. Her plots are dreamlike and nonlinear, spooling backward and forward in time as though characters bring the entire weight of history to bear on their every act" (NYT).
  • Her novel BELOVED won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. It is an eye-opening novel about the experiences of American slaves and the ghosts that haunt all of us because of the travesty known as slavery. I could even get students to read this one, when they tended to avoid books they thought of as too schoolish, because of the ghosts!
  • Her novel THE BLUEST EYE broke my heart. It was my first Morrison novel and the first she ever published. It is so impactful.
  •  In addition to her eleven novels, she wrote many children's books and essays. After the election of Donald Trump in 2016 she wrote an essay, published in the New Yorker, titled "Making America White Again" (New Yorker).
  • Unlike most authors Toni Morrison's books were met with critical and commercial success. She was also featured often on the Oprah Winfrey show, which, of course, helped increase her popularity.
  • The Guardian newspaper printed an article today called "Toni Morrison-A Life in Quotes" (Guardian). I recommend that you hop over to their website and read it. The quotes will give you a fuller picture of this marvelous author who made no bones about being a black author, writing about the black experience. In one quote she says that she wrote for black people because she couldn't relate to Tolstoy as a fourteen-year-old black girl growing up in Ohio. "I don’t have to apologize or consider myself limited because I don’t [write about white people.] –  The point is not having the white critic sit on your shoulder and approve it."
  • About racism, a topic very much in the news again today, Morrison said, "The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being."
  •  Before she was an author, Morrison was a editor for Random House. She worked very hard to find black authors, to increase the canon of black literature. She recognized that most black entertainers were writing for white audiences. She wanted to find writers who would write for a black audience.
A documentary about her life and her influence on literature is likely playing in a theater near you today. I went to see it and was moved beyond words. What this woman has done for the literary world is astonishing. Go see it if you can.  The Pieces I Am trailer:



Thank you, Ms. Morrison, for your bold voice. It was needed and is still needed in the world today. Rest in peace.

-Anne

3 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful tribute, Anne.

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  2. I agree with Margaret! Toni would be proud to read it.

    And I still can't believe she's gone. :(

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  3. I think Bluest Eye was also my first Morrison book. What an incredible impact she had. I was listening to On Point yesterday (NPR) while they were talking about her and Chinua Achebe's son called in to talk about her impact on his father and other African writers. He was very emotional and it was impactful.

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