Toni Morrison: A Pioneer Writer

Toni Morrison was a pioneer writer whose works transformed American letters by dramatizing the pursuit of freedom within the boundaries of race.

Here are some excerpts from PBS News Hour Article “Toni Morrison, celebrated author and Nobel laureate, dead at 88“:

Publisher Alfred A. Knopf announced that Morrison died Monday night at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Morrison’s family issued a statement through Knopf saying she died after a brief illness.

Morrison helped raise American multiculturalism to the world stage and helped uncensor her country’s past, unearthing the lives of the unknown and the unwanted, those she would call “the unfree at the heart of the democratic experiment.” In her novels, history — black history — was a trove of poetry, tragedy, love, adventure and good old gossip, whether in small-town Ohio in “Sula” or big-city Harlem in “Jazz.” She regarded race as a social construct and through language founded the better world her characters suffered to attain. Morrison wove everything from African literature and slave folklore to the Bible and Gabriel Garcia Marquez into the most diverse, yet harmonious, of literary communities.

Winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for “Beloved,” she was one of the book world’s most regal presences, with her expanse of graying dreadlocks; her dark, discerning eyes; and warm, theatrical voice, able to lower itself to a mysterious growl or rise to a humorous falsetto. “That handsome and perceptive lady,” James Baldwin called her.

Morrison wasn’t afraid to speak publicly about the themes in her novels and to challenge how people think. Lessons to remember about Morrison’s career as a writer are the truth she offered on white supremacy, her immense impact on the publishing world, and women writers in particular, how a writer can grant more authority to the “unfree”, and she eliminated the “white gaze” from her work.

Read more about Toni Morrison, her impact and death at pbs.org and also find out more about the lessons we can learn from her.