For the third day of Women’s History month I invite you to read my ode to Toni Morrison
To be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing.
I will never have adequate words to explain the significance of Toni Morrison. I will never have adequate words to explain why I love her, both her as a person and her work. She is an American icon, a writer whose works will be celebrated long after my own lifetime, I’m sure. She represents truth telling, she represents the essence of humanity, and she represents every voice that deserves to be heard.
While I was working on my master’s degree, I was lucky enough to take a class devoted entirely to studying the works of Toni Morrison. I cannot express how much I valued that class, what I took away from it, and the real love that I developed for Morrison’s novels. Since taking the class I have continued to read Morrison’s works, and her words have continued to haunt the recesses of my mind.
No one is quite so kind to prose as Tony Morrison. Words obey her. Her story lines are notoriously complex as she seeks to explore the intricacies of humanity. She knowingly unpacks injustices, she asks clever questions about race, she provides answers to questions about race that you didn’t know you had. She explores gender in ways that it has not been previously explored, paying equal attention to both femininity and masculinity. Her novels paint sweeping portraits of humanity, and her depictions of the human condition are amongst the most haunting that are to be discovered.
Morrison is perhaps one of the most prolific writers of the late 20th-early 21st centuries. She has published 11 novels, 3 children’s books, 2 plays, a libretto and various academic and non-fiction works. Her novel Beloved received the Pulitzer Prize, and Morrison is the recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature. The Boston Globe says of her “there is no novelist alive who has captured the beauty and democracy of the American vernacular so well.”
Morrison’s novels tackle hard truths. Often, they depict ugly themes like racism, murder, vanity, guilt, poverty, loneliness or fear. But her words have a life of their own, and through reading her works her readers gain a broader understanding of the world. Her readers are enriched by her words, and the world is enriched because of her contributions.
“There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up; holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smooths and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind – wrapped tight like skin. Then there is a loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive, on its own. A dry and spreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come from a far-off place.”
Below is a video of an inerview with Toni Morrison, for your viewing pleasure. I’ve also include a link to interview she did NPR’s Terry Gross. If you admire Morrison’s work, I highly encourage you to watch some of her interviews if you haven’t alread.