If you don’t know Toni Morrison (1931-2019) or her work, and you really should, she was the only African-American writer (and one of the few women) to have received the Nobel Prize for Literature. In her acceptance speech Morrison emphasized the importance of language “partly as a system, partly as a living thing over which one has control, but mostly as an agency – as an act with consequences“.
Her work soared with tenderness, but also searing power. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. The critically acclaimed Song Of Solomon (1977) was a bestseller and critic’s favorite. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1988, she won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for Beloved (1987).
Prolific and prolifically gifted, she also wrote librettos, children’s books, plays, poetry, essays, and op-eds; all of them challenging and splendid.
In November 2016, right after the Human Tanning Bed Warning Label from Queens was elected President of the United States, Morrison wrote an essay for The New Yorker, Mourning For Whiteness, where she argues that white Americans are so afraid of losing privileges afforded them by their race that white voters elected Trump, whom she described as being “endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan“, in order to keep the idea of white supremacy alive.