Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Toni Morrison, the first Black woman to win a Nobel prize in literature, has passed away at the age of 88. I have read some of her books: “The Bluest Eye” which was part of my Dad’s collection and which I devoured, “Beloved” (I saw the movie, and was left with a ‘What just happened?’ feeling at the end of it), “Song of Solomon,” and “Sula“… I have to admit that I started “Jazz” but never finished it for lack of time. To be honest, Toni Morrison and I did not jive… I read the books, but I always felt like I needed to read them more than once to actually understand them. I believe that was her signature: her books were no cookie-cutter type-literature, but profound, heartbreaking, and conscience shakers; they had this earth-shattering effect, where you really walked a mile in the protagonist’s shoes. They also always had this musical and poetic feel to them, … maybe that’s why I kept coming for more?
Toni Morrison had an outstanding career. She started late as a writer at age 39 and was editor of textbooks at Random House before fiction: she was the first African American editor there. She then became one of the world acclaimed writer, and professor at some of the best universities in the world: Cornell University and Princeton University. She won the Nobel laureate in Literature in 1993, thereby becoming the first and only Black woman to win it to date. She was even on the cover of Time Magazine in 1998, only the second female writer of fiction and second black writer of fiction to appear on one of the most significant U.S. magazine covers of the era. And … she of course, benefited from the Oprah effect!
“Her writing was not just beautiful but meaningful — a challenge to our conscience and a call to greater empathy,” President Obama wrote Tuesday on his Facebook page. “She was as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page.”
“Narrative has never been merely entertainment for me,” she said in her Nobel lecture. “It is, I believe, one of the principal ways in which we absorb knowledge.”
She also said, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” So get ready… it’s your turn to carry Toni Morrison’s torch!