Toni Morrrison is everything. I’ve taught her books so many times. But more than that, her words sit with me, touchstones. When images from her books come to me, they give me solid ground to reach toward ethical, beautiful compassion.
Images and characters and moments from Beloved live in the back of my mind always. I read about teen girls locked up in Texas hieleras with their premie newborn and I can see Beloved’s birth and death and haunting play out in my mind.
I read The Bluest Eye when I was still a child, so young I don’t remember it well, but it’s still there. It’s the reason, the reason behind my big choices about who I let into my life, what I choose to do with my life.
I studied literature because she wrote literature.
If you do one thing, if you want to read something today or hear her voice, look up her Nobel prize acceptance speech. Let it steep in your mind and infuse your days.
After all, the death of someone who offered so much wisdom simply means, as she puts it, “it’s in your hands.” Her words will help you with the “narcotic narcissism” and violence of our current moment. Think what is in your hands, what guns real or metaphorical have been placed there, and when you last used those hands to offer warmth, to reach toward life.
Rather than judge the relative genius of Morrison, let her words in. So that you can work with her, together. So you can say with Morrison,””We know you can never do it properly – once and for all. Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light.”