In a tweet from 2019, Obama said Toni Morrison (1931-2019) was “a national treasure, as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page.” She was a writer, but liked to position herself as a very good reader. Author of “Song of Solomon,” “Beloved,” “The Bluest Eye,” and other great American novels, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. In 2012, President Obama was honored to present her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Although she has a series of credentials including a B.A. in English from Howard University, a master’s degree in American Literature from Cornell University, years of teaching experience at Howard and Princeton, being the first Black woman to be an editor in fiction at Random House, it doesn’t take all these credentials and awards to recognize Morrison’s treasure in her works:
- The Bluest Eye (1970)
- Sula (1973)
- Song of Solomon (1977)
- Tar Baby (1981)
- Beloved (1987)
- Jazz (1992)
- Playing in the Dark (1992)
- Paradise (1997)
- Recitatif (1983)
- Love (2003)
- A Mercy (2008)
- Home (2012)
- God Help the Child (2015)
- The Origins of Others (2017)
Morrison, being a Nobel laureate, confronts a lot of difficult topics in her works (Obama describes it as “a kind of moral and emotional intensity”). In an interview, she said, “I wanted the narrator’s presence of the voice to take the hand of the reader and say, ‘you know this is going to be terrible, but don’t worry. It’s already happened and I have been there and we can get through it together. It’s going to be fine.’”
- Jane Austen was one of Morrison’s favorite authors (American Literature in the World).
- Detroit is said to be the setting in Song of Solomon (Map and Data).
- She was a single mother caring for her two sons while working at the publishing house (Fresh Air Archive).
- She said her family was intimate with the supernatural, the folktales, songs, and even ghost stories from which came to inform her work (NPR).
- Although she created the greatest female protagonist in American literature (Pilate in Song of Solomon), Morrison didn’t identify as a feminist (The Salon Interview).
That’s it for today. Happy Toni Morrison day!