Celebrating Black women writers: Toni Morrison

March 14, 2019


As we continue to feature African American female writers, this week we showcase Toni Morrison. Morrison is one of most beloved female writers in American history. She has exceptional creative energy for examining the life of African American women and the black experience. I have a few of her books in my home library. Here are a few books; I would like to recommend. Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Tar Baby, Song of Solomon and my favorite, Love.

Toni Morrison is the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She is best known for her novels focusing on intimate relationships, especially between men and women. These stories are set against the backdrop of African American culture. Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, on February 18, 1931. She was the second of four children born to Ramah and George Wofford. Her mother’s parents, Ardelia and John Solomon Willis, had left Greenville, Alabama, around 1910 after they lost their farm because of debts that they could not repay. Morrison’s father’s family left Georgia and moved north to escape sharecropping (a system of farming in which a farmer works on someone else’s land and pays the owner a share of the crop) and violence against African Americans in the South. Both families settled in the steel-mill town of Lorain on Lake Erie. Morrison grew up during the Great Depression in the 1930s, a time of severe economic hardship. Her father supported the family by working three jobs for seventeen years.

Morrison’s childhood was filled with African American folklore, music, rituals, and myths. Her family was, as Morrison says, “intimate with the supernatural” and frequently used visions and signs to predict the future. Storytelling was an important part of life in the Wofford family and both the children and the adults would share stories with one another. Morrison sees her writing functioning much like storytelling did in the past. It reminds people about their heritage and shows them their place in the community. She has said that she uses her childhood memories to help her start writing. Her real-life world, therefore, is often included in her novels.

In 2001 Toni Morrison was given a National Arts and Humanities Award by President Bill Clinton in Washington, D.C. The president gave a speech during the award ceremony and said that Morrison had “entered America’s heart.”

Novels by Toni Morrison:
• The Bluest Eye
• Sula
• Song of Solomon
• Tar Baby
• Beloved
• Jazz
• Paradise
• Love
• A Mercy
• Home
• God Help the Child

Children’s literature
• The Big Box
• The Book of Mean People
• Who’s Got Game? The Ant or the Grasshopper?, The Lion or the Mouse?, Poppy or the Snake?
• Peeny Butter Fudge
• Please, Louise

Short fiction
• “Recitatif”
• “Sweetness”

Plays
• Dreaming Emmett
• Desdemona

Non-fiction
• The Origin of Others
• A Mouth Full of Blood: Essays, Speeches, Meditations