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.
I am late with this post. More than two weeks have passed since Gloria Naylor died, but I couldn’t let her passing go by without making a note of it on this blog. Gloria Naylor, a noted African-American writer best known for her novel The Women of Brewster Place, died from heart failure on September 28 near her home in the Virgin Islands. She was 66.
I faintly remember the day I picked up Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird to read. It was the summer before sixth grade and I had read all the books I owned so I scoured my parents’ bookshelves for something new. The memory of the day and Lee’s story has faded from my memory, but I recall that I was so intrigued by the story that I completed the book in two days.
I didn’t know what significance the story carried. It was just something to read on a slow summer day. But I remember that I was touched by its contents and choked up a bit while reading. That’s the only experience I’ve had with Lee’s work. Since the release of the controversial Go Set a Watchman, I’ve debated returning to Lee’s books. I would like to re-experience her first novel and read the second for myself to see what it is about. But I have been skeptical about Go Set a Watchman because part of me believes that she was forced into publishing it. After all, she had avoided the media for years and had refused to publish another book after To Kill a Mockingbird.
I was sorry to learn that Harper Lee had passed. She died on February 19 in her hometown, Monroeville, AL. She was 89. With To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee so impacted literary canon that her novel became a staple on many high-school literature reading lists. It also won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1961, a year after it was published. Though she will be missed, her work will continue to endure and she will be remembered.
I was first introduced to William Zinsser in my college’s Art of the Essay course. One of the many books we were required to purchase was the popular On Writing Well, a book that is recommended by many writing instructors. It is this book, which has sold more than 1.5-million copies and is often paired with Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, that made Zinsser’s name a popular one. It’s unfortunate that he has passed.