Toni Morrison: Literary Giant

Toni Morrison

“In order to be as free as I possibly can, in my own imagination, I can’t take positions that are closed. Everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it, to open doors, sometimes, not even closing the book — leaving the endings open for reinterpretation, revisitation, a little ambiguity”

-Toni Morrison

The first book I read by Toni Morrison was assigned in high school. It was “The Bluest Eye.” In my senior year I signed up for a class dedicated to understanding Toni Morrison’s work. We read “Sula,” “Jazz” and “Tar Baby” a book I was obsessed with understanding for a period of time and which is still one of my favorite of her novels that I’ve read. “Tar Baby” is a broad, unfurling narrative, sprawling and unwinding from the shores of a Caribbean island haunted by the slaves who washed up there to the streets of New York and back again. Point of view shifts across race, gender and even plant species as Morrison incorporates even the island flora as minor characters and witnesses to the history and lives of it’s inhabitants and visitors.

Morrison’s literary voice is among the richest, most inventive, unique and celebrated among her peers. A single mother, award-winning author, editor and professor, Morrison has created Black female literary characters who are as complex, intuitive and supernatural as they are resilient, determined and conflicted. In their development these characters speak to a myriad of epic themes, which are often defined in large part by the post traumatic effects of slavery and systemic racism and sexism in America.

Morrison’s refusal to be pegged by critics as any one type of writer is a testament to her desire as a artist to be embraced for all parts of her multidimensional talent. On the page she spreads her literary wings and soars beyond the boundaries of monolithic chains and in doing so is an example to women of color everywhere to accept nothing less than the capacity to express all that we are.


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