“I’m writing for black people…in the same way that Tolstoy was not writing for me, a 14-year-old coloured girl from Lorain, Ohio.”
The first black woman to be honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature, Toni Morrison, has died at 88 years old.
I am still processing this fact.
In the midst of my processing, I do not want to wax poetic about the ways in Toni Morrison books impacted my life. It wouldn’t serve her or anyone else, and frankly, I am one of many. Also, I’ve always been a simple writer. Clean language is my forte, so I don’t want to feel compelled to out-Toni Morrison, Toni Morrison in order to pay homage to Toni Morrison. Still, for the few who happen upon this little site from time to time, I think it’s important for me to make it clear that like Toni Morrison’s books, this site, my platform, was built to empower us. To move us out of the margins and tell our stories in a way that speaks to our experience, and our experience alone. Knowing this fact has always sustained me and my vision. I sometimes lose track and get caught up the aesthetics of womanhood but at the core, Toni’s vision is my own.
She said it best:
“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”
Five Must-Read Toni Morrison Books
I live a quadruple existence in that I am a woman, Haitian, Black, and American. What’s more, I am a dark-skinned black woman, who once struggled to reconcile the way in which I viewed myself against the way in which the world viewed me. Somehow, the works of Toni Morrison have always resonated with my seemingly unique and equally burdensome place in the world. The first book to really capture this experience was The Bluest Eye.
“Beauty was not simply something to behold; it was something one could do.”
Upon reading this book I understood, for the first time, the yearning I felt to not only be beautiful but to also be seen. Written at the height of the Black Power Movement, Toni said this of The Bluest Eye:
“And so when people said at that time black is beautiful – yeah? Of course. Who said it wasn’t? So I was trying to say, in The Bluest Eye, wait a minute. Guys. There was a time when black wasn’t beautiful. And you hurt.”
“But the picking out, the choosing. Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it. I saw you and made up my mind. My mind.”
According to The Guardian, “Morrison calls Jazz (1992), a love story set in 1920s Harlem and narrated in such a way that the book itself speaks in the first person, her “best book” in terms of the technical obstacles she set herself. ”
3. Tar Baby
“At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don’t need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens — that letting go — you let go because you can.”
A love story between a fashion model and Sorbonne Graduate and Son, a penniless drifter. That’s all I’m giving away. Read it.
“‘You think I don’t know what your life is like just because I ain’t living it? I know what every colored woman in this country is doing.’
‘Dying., Just like me. But the difference is they dying like a stump. Me, I’m going down like one of those redwoods. I sure did live in this world.’”
A story about the friendship between black women. My favorite on this list.
“I had only one desire: to dismember it. To see of what it was made, to discover the dearness, to find the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me, but apparently only me.”
There are so many women like me, women who were once little black girls hungering to find someone who could tell her story. And then we found Toni Morrison and were relieved to find that someway, somehow, she could capture our voices with such fearless ferocity that even our knees buckled upon reading her words.
I hope you will read these novels and understand me and yourself a little better.
Rest in Power, Toni Morrison.
For more books by black female writers click HERE.
Hey, Boo! My name is Lisa and you’ve stumbled upon my own little corner of the world. I’m a 30 something-year-old writer/mother/wife who happens to love lipstick, high heels, blackness, and the truth. You’ll find a mix of everything on this site, so I won’t bore you by trying to define this space. I hope you stay awhile!