Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford) was an American author, editor, and professor who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature for being an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”  She was a multi -award winning author, essayist who spoke up for the rights of others, using her own experiences of racism and oppression to educate the world to be a better place.   

Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed African American characters; among the best known are her novels The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon , and Beloved , which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. In 2001 she was named one of “The 30 Most Powerful Women in America” by Ladies’ Home Journal. 

 In 1949, Morrison decided to attend a historically black institution for her college education. She moved to Washington, D.C. to attend Howard University. While in college, Morrison experienced racial segregation in a new way. She witnessed how racial hierarchy divided people of color based on their skin tone. However, the community at Howard University also allowed her to make connections with other writers, artists, and activists that influenced her work. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English, Morrison attended Cornell University to earn the Master of Arts in English. When she graduated in 1955, she began teaching English at Texas Southern University but returned to Howard University as a professor. While back at the university, Morrison taught the young civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael. In 2012 President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.   

Morrison wrote children’s books with her son Slade. Morrison had stopped working on Home when he died. She said that afterwards, “I stopped writing until I began to think, He would be really put out if he thought that he had caused me to stop. ‘Please, Mom, I’m dead, could you keep going …?’ She finished Home and dedicated it to Slade. Her other son Harold is an architect. In an interview with Telegraph in 2012, Toni explained what it was like raising her two sons alone. She said, “I don’t think I did any of that very well. I did it ad hoc, like any working mother does.”   

Morrison died in New York City, on August 5, 2019, from complications of pneumonia. She was 88 years old.  

You can find a list of all the awards she won here .  

Her birthday, 18 February is dedicated Toni Morrison day in her hometown Lorain, Ohio 

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.

Toni Morrison

Fiction


The Bluest Eye

Available as a physical book

The Bluest Eye chronicles the tragic, torn lives of a poor black family in 1940s Ohio. Pecola, unlovely and unloved, prays each night for blue eyes like those of her privileged white schoolfellows.

Sula

Available as a physical book, eBook and eAudiobook

This is a novel set in a small town in Ohio, focusing on two girls, Nell and Sula, both black, both poor, who share their dreams until Sula escapes to live a vagrant city life for ten years. When she returns, the bond of their friendship is broken.

Song of Solomon

Available as a physical book, eBook and eAudiobook

This is the story of Macon Dead as he makes a voyage of rediscovery, travelling southwards geographically and inwards spiritually. Through the enlightenment of one man, the novel recapitulates the history of slavery and liberation..

Tar Baby

Available as a physical book, eBook and eAudiobook

Jadine is a graduate of the Sorbonne, art historian, American black living in Paris and Rome. Son is a criminal on the run, uneducated, violent, contemptuous, an American black from small-town Florida. He is a threat to her freedom: she is a threat to his identity.

Beloved

Available as a physical book, eBook and eAudiobook

It’s the mid-1800s. At Sweet Home in Kentucky, an era is ending as slavery comes under attack from the abolitionists. The worlds of Halle & Paul D. are to be destroyed in a cataclysm of agony & torment. The world of Sethe is to turn to violence & death.

Jazz

Available as a physical book, eBook and eAudiobook

Joe Trace shoots his lover, the impetuous 18-year-old Dorcas. At the funeral his determined, hardworking wife Violet tries to disfigure the corpse with a knife. Their story captures the complex humanity of black American urban life at that time.

Paradise

Available as a physical book, eBook and eAudiobook

Following the lives of 4 young women, this novel tells the story of a war (cultural, racial, religious) between two communities, each claiming a patent on the truth, each convinced it is defending Paradise.

Love

Available as a physical book.

Many women are obsessed by Bill Cosey, owner of the Cosey Hotel and resort. More than just the owner he shapes their yearnings for a father, husband, lover, guardian and friend. Even after his death he dominates their lives. Yet he was driven by secret forces – a troubled past and a woman called Celestial.

A Mercy

Available as a physical book and eBook

Set in America in the 1680s, ‘A Mercy’ reveals what lies under the surface of slavery. At its heart, this is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother and a daughter – a mother who cuts off her daughter, to save her, and a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.

Home

Available as a physical book

A self-loathing veteran of the Korean War, Frank Money finds himself back in racist America after enduring trauma on the front lines that left him with more than just physical scars. But as Frank revisits his memories from childhood and the war, he discovers a profound courage he thought he could never possess again.

God Help the Child

Available as a physical book and eBook

At the centre: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love. There is Booker, the man Bride loves, and loses to anger. Rain, the mysterious white child with whom she crosses paths. And finally Sweetness, Bride’s mother herself, who takes a lifetime to come to understand that ‘what you do to children matters.


Non-Fiction


Mouth Full of Blood

Available as a physical book, eBook and eAudiobook

The collection is structured in three parts and these are heart-stoppingly introduced by a prayer for the dead of 9/11, a meditation on Martin Luther King and a eulogy for James Baldwin. Morrison’s Nobel lecture, on the power of language, is accompanied by lectures to Amnesty International and the Newspaper Association of America. She speaks to graduating students and visitors to both the Louvre and America’s Black Holocaust Museum. She revisits The Bluest Eye, Sula and Beloved; reassessing the novels that have become touchstones for generations of readers.

Race

Available as a physical book, eBook and eAudiobook

An exploration of race from one of the twentieth century’s primary chroniclers of the African American experience. Is who we are really only skin deep? In this searing, remonstrative book, Toni Morrison unravels race through the stories of those debased and dehumanised because of it.

Playing in the Dark

Available as a ???

Toni Morrison’s brilliant discussions of the “Africanist” presence in the fiction of Poe, Melville, Cather, and Hemingway leads to a dramatic reappraisal of the essential characteristics of our literary tradition. She shows how much the themes of freedom and individualism, manhood and innocence, depended on the existence of a black population that was manifestly unfree–and that came to serve white authors as embodiments of their own fears and desires.

The measure of our lives

Available as a ???

This inspirational book juxtaposes quotations, one to a page, drawn from Toni Morrison’s entire body of work, both fiction and nonfiction–from The Bluest Eye to God Help the Child, from Playing in the Dark to The Source of Self-Regard–to tell a story of self-actualization. It aims to evoke the totality of Toni Morrison’s literary vision.

Goodness and the literary imagination

Available as a ???

What exactly is goodness? Where is it found in the literary imagination? Toni Morrison, one of American letters’ greatest voices, pondered these perplexing questions in her celebrated Ingersoll Lecture, delivered at Harvard University in 2012 and published now for the first time in book form. Perhaps because it is overshadowed by the more easily defined evil, goodness often escapes our attention. Recalling many literary examples, from Ahab to Coetzee’s Michael K, Morrison seeks the essence of goodness and ponders its significant place in her writing. She considers the concept in relation to unforgettable characters from her own works of fiction and arrives at conclusions that are both eloquent and edifying.

Birth of a nation-hood

Available as a ???

Toni Morrison contributes an introduction and brings together thirteen essays, all written especially for this book, by distinguished academics – black and white, male and female – on one of the grimmest and most revealing moments of American history: the O J Simpson case.

Death is a sure thing but life is just as certain. Problem is you can’t know in advance.

Toni Morrison, Home

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