Toni Morrison was born on 18th of February, in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. She was the second among the four children. Their parents were George Wofford, a welder, and her mother, Ramah, who was a homemaker. Her parents witnessed unbridled racism, and her father resorted to doing odd jobs to escape it. The poverty-stricken family faced an acute tragedy; their family landlord set their apartment on fire because they were unable to pay the rent. The evil act could not shake their belief or courage. They positively responded to the landlord. Since her parents were deeply attached to their heritage and culture, they instilled in her the same feelings, narrating traditional folk stories, singing songs, and ghost stories. Her parent’s storytelling techniques and her love for reading played a crucial role in her growth as a writer.
Although her parents shaped her creative mind by attaching it with literature, yet surprising her formal education started quite late at the age of twelve when she was admitted to Lorain High School. She did really well at school, joined the drama club, and became a member of the debating team. Later, in 1949, she attended Harvard University, and it was here she confronted the racially segregated society. She graduated in English in 1953 and attended Cornell University in 1955, earning a master’s in arts.
After completing her master’s degree, Toni pursued teaching as a career. While teaching at Harvard, she met Harold Morrison, an architect, and the couple was married in 1958. Unfortunately, their marriage ended in divorce in 1964, when Toni was pregnant. After their separation, she turned toward teaching and writing.
Toni Morrison, a towering writer of history, added a lot to the world of literature. Her untiring efforts made her stand among the influential literary figures. Her writings won many prestigious awards for her, such as in 1988. She won Pulitzer Prize Award for her novel Beloved. She also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1933. Later, in 2012, she won the Presidential Medal for Freedom.
Some Important Facts of Her Life
- She was amongst the first African-American editors who worked as a fiction editor for Random House in Syracuse.
- She was the first African American who won Nobel Prize for Literature.
- Oberlin College, Ohio became the base of Toni Morrison Society founded in 1983.
- She died on the 5th of August in 2019, in the Bronx, New York City, at the age of eighty-eight.
Toni Morrison, a leading literary figure, pursued two careers in her life – teaching, and writing. After completing education, she started teaching at Texas Southern University followed by the State University of New York. However, she emerged as a writer when her first novel, The Bluest Eye, published in 1970. The novel presents the story of a victimized African-American young girl obsessed with white beauty and wishes to have blue eyes. Later, in 1973, another novel, Sula, explored the phenomenon of friendship. In 1977, she published The Song of Solomon and Tar Baby in 1981, exploring the concepts of identity, racism, sex, and class. Her critically acclaimed novel, Beloved, appeared in 1987 and created ripples in literature. Besides these novels, she produced heartwarming children literature, some of which include Peeny Butter Fudge, Remember: The Journey to School Integration and The Book of Mean People.
Toni Morrison stands among the most influential figures of world literature. She beautifully portrayed her ideas in her literary pieces. Her distinctive literary style relied mostly on vivid imagery, symbolism, creative analogies, and diverse sentence structure. She did not present the imaginative world in her pieces. Instead, she focuses on the misery of the African-American community, her people. Her uniqueness is characterized by the ironic tone that reflects keen insights into the white culture. Her writings are marked with the use of crispy dialogues and straightforward style and have won universal recognition. The recurring themes in most of her literary pieces are cultural, identity, love, sexism, representation of black identity, and prejudice.
Some Important Works of Toni Morrison
- Best Novels: She was a prolific writer. Some of his best novels include The Bluest Eye, Beloved, Jazz, Paradise, Love, Song of Solomon, A Mercy and
- Other Works: Besides novels, she worked on children’s fiction, shorter fiction and plays, some of them include The Book of Mean People, The Big Box, Sweetness, Dreaming Emmett, Remember: The Journey to School Integration and
Toni Morrison’s Impact on Future Literature
Toni Morison, with her unique abilities, left a profound impact on global literature. Her witty ideas about the marginalization that black people faced in the United States along with distinct literary qualities, won applause from her readers, critics, and other fellow writers. Her impact resonates strongly inside as well as outside the English speaking world. Her masterpieces provide the principles for the writers of succeeding generations to follow. She successfully documented her ideas about sex, the supremacy of white and love in her writings that even today writers try to imitate her unique style.
- There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up, holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smooths and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind–wrapped tight like skin. Then there is the loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive. On its own. A dry and spreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come from a far-off place.” (Beloved)
- “Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved. The lover alone possesses his gift of love. The loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glare of the lover’s inward eye.” (The Bluest Eye)
- “Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.” (Jazz)
- “You wanna fly, you got to give up the s*** that weighs you down.” (Song of Solomon)