When Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, it was widely considered a validation for an entire world of literature, as if America stood up and accepted that the African American Narrative was essential to any understanding of who we all were as a country. She was a stand-in for every writer in the country who tried to make that path clear to the reader but was also a unique and visionary voice of her own.
They say you can tell a leader because you only see them from behind, and that isn’t untrue of her. She never stopped. She helped elevate outsider literature in this country and built something really beautiful along the way. She wrote about the hard choices people have to make in crisis and about the kinds of anger and depth of hope that comes afterward. She wrote about people who were ignored and told stories that would have fallen by the wayside without her.
She mentored young writers and championed authors who would never have had a chance, even fighting for Muhammed Ali’s autobiography to be published after he fell out of grace for his opposition to the war. And she did it all with dignity, using beautiful words to appeal to people’s better natures.
She passed away at 88, but everything she did will live for so much longer.
The author Toni Morrison has died at the age of 88. She was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature and best known for her nuanced discussion of race in America.
Read more about her life: https://nyti.ms/31pijTA
Transcript, Provided by YouTube:
“I didn’t discover why I wrote really until later.
At the very beginning,
when I wrote the first book, “The Bluest Eye,”
I came at it as not a writer, but a reader.
And such a story didn’t exist.
Every little homely, black girl was a joke
or didn’t exist in literature.
And I was eager to read about a story
where racism really hurts and can destroy you.”
“You don’t think you will ever change and write books
that incorporate white — white lives
into them substantially?”
“I have done.”
“In a substantial way?”
“You can’t understand how powerfully racist
that question is, can you?
As you could never ask a white author:
‘When are you going to write about black people?’”
“Toni Morrison’s prose brings us that kind of
moral and emotional intensity
that few writers ever attempt.
From “Song of Solomon” to “Beloved,”
Toni reaches us deeply,
using a tone that is lyrical, precise, distinct
“There would never have been a book club
had there not been you as an author.”
So I thank you, Ms. Morrison.”
“This is fabulous.”
“Yes — never would have been one without you.
Never would have been.”
“Well, you know, I’m trying not to write just because
I can or just write more.
I’m trying to write less that means more, that says more.
For me it’s extremely important
for the clarification not only of the past,
but of who we are as human beings in this country.”
“I was editing a book at Random House.
And it was a kind of scrapbook of all sorts of things
that emanated from African-American culture.
And I came across this woman, Margaret Garner,
and the story was that a slave woman had killed her children
or tried to kill them all.
What struck me was the theme was that she was not crazy.
And they were stunned to find her A: articulate,
B: sane and 3: interested in doing it again.”
“I know how to write forever.
I don’t think I could have happily
stayed here with the calamity that has occurred
so often in the world
if I did not have a way of thinking about it, past,
present, future, which is what writing is for me.
Nobody tells me what to do.
I am in control.
It is my world.
It’s sometimes wild,
the process by which I arrive at something.
But nevertheless, it’s mine,
it’s free and it’s a way of thinking.
It’s pure knowledge.
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
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Photo credit: screenshot from video