A Legend Has Passed: Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison (February 1931 – August 2019)

RIP. Toni Morrison.

When I first read this message in a friend’s Facebook post, I wondered who he was talking about. Surely not my Toni Morrison. I was in disbelief and even when another friend confirmed the news and I finally saw the articles pouring in on the web, I still didn’t want to believe it. Toni Morrison had passed.

Toni Morrison died on Monday, August 5, in Bronx, NY, from complications of pneumonia. She was 88. As the news of her passing settles around me and into me, as I begin to accept it, I feel a loss and am moved by her passing. No, I did not personally know Morrison, nor have I read all her books or have met her, but I felt her presence in my life. She (her books) were a presence in the households I lived in, especially when I moved to the U.S.

However, I do not consider her one of my favorite authors. She’s more than that. Her books are classics and she a literary giant, one who was still alive, which I took for granted. I naturally assumed she would go on producing novel after novel. Silly as it sounds, I never considered that she would pass away. Just as I’ve never considered that my parents or grandparents or other family members will one day pass away. It’s a naive way to think of the world, maybe, to always assume that these people will always be around; but in some way, I believe they always will. The soul can live on in more than the body it’s born into. And through Morrison’s novels, essays, and other writings we will surely encounter her soul, passion, and intellect again. I do not think of her as truly gone; just no longer physically living among us. Her contributions will still be felt.

“Toni believed the writer had the duty to take a public stance. The novel was but one tool for doing this.”
from this New York Times article

Morrison was a best-selling author who wrote 11 novels as well as essays and children’s books. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved in 1988, received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, and was honored with Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama. She received these awards and honors and much more for her seminal work that revealed hard and harsh truths about America, Black experiences in America, and Black women’s experiences in America.

She has contributed much to American literature including helping other Black authors to get published when she worked at Random House in the late 1960s. Such authors included Angela Davis and Muhammad Ali.

“I look very hard for black fiction because I want to participate in developing a canon of black work,” Ms. Morrison said in an interview quoted in The Dictionary of Literary Biography. “We’ve had the first rush of black entertainment, where blacks were writing for whites, and whites were encouraging this kind of self-flagellation. Now we can get down to the craft of writing, where black people are talking to black people.”
from this New York Times article

I am forever grateful for Morrison’s work and contributions. I am sorry that she’s physically gone, but I’m sure I will encounter her spirit again and again when I revisit her work. Still…

May her soul rest in peace.

28 thoughts on “A Legend Has Passed: Toni Morrison

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  4. For artists and writers and philosophers we don’t know personally but are influenced by, the legacy lives on. I’m grateful for Toni for her strength and character and the thoughts she’s left us all to ponder. Now, to go and do.

    Liked by 2 people

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