Toni Morrison 2/18/ 1931 – 8/5/ 2019
Toni Morrison (Courtesy Alfred A. Knopf)
Toni Morrison was an American novelist, essayist, editor, teacher and professor emeritus at Princeton University. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. The critically acclaimed Song of Solomon brought her national attention and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. She was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1993. She also wrote “Beloved,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.
In an interview with Sarah Ladipo Manyika and Mario Kaiser for Granta, she said, “What people outside this country, particularly in Europe, think about this country, what they like about it is generally something that comes out of black culture. It’s jazz. It’s even language. Think about what this country would be like without us. I wouldn’t even visit! I came with my first book trying to say, ‘Look, racism really and truly hurts. If you really want to be white and you’re not, and you’re young and vulnerable, it can kill you.’ That was when I first began to write, and finally, after all these years of reading books, editing books, working in libraries, I thought, ‘Wait a minute, there’s no book in there about me!’ So if I wanted to read it, I would probably have to write it.”