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Toni Morrison


At the 1999 National Book Awards ceremony Oprah Winfrey told of calling Toni Morrison to say that she had had to puzzle over many of the latter’s sentences. According to Oprah, Morrison’s reply was”That, my dear, is called reading.” Sorry, my dear Toni, but it’s actually called bad writing. (B R Myers A Reader’s Manifesto)

Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. Her father had various jobs, including steel welder and construction worker. She took a B. A. from Howard University and an M. A. from Cornell University, writing her thesis on William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf. She taught at Texas Southern and then Howard University. In 1964, she divorced her husband and went to work for Random House where, amongst other works, she edited The Black Book, an important book on the struggles of ordinary African-Americans, which made her much more aware of the history of her people. She had started writing while at Howard University and had written a story which would become her first novel, The Bluest Eye.

Her first novel had some success but the subsequent novels garnered many awards, though Beloved was her most successful, even though it initially failed to win any awards. She also continued to teach. In 1993, she was awarded the Nobel Prize. She has also written children’s books with her son, Slade. Her books will be remembered for directly addressing the issues faced by African-Americans in the United States, neither sentimentalising them nor condemning them, but dealing with them openly, honestly and creatively. She died in 2019.

Other links

Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison
Chloe Wofford Talks About Toni Morrison
The Toni Morrison Society
The Toni Morrison Anchor
Anniina’s Toni Morrison Page
Toni Morrison’s Mix of Tragedy, Domesticity, and Folklore
When she speaks, America listens
Clinton as the first black president (article by Morrison)
Toni Morrison’s Letter to Barack Obama


1970 The Bluest Eye (novel)
1973 Sula (novel)
1977 Song of Solomon (novel)
1981 Tar Baby (novel)
1987 Beloved (novel)
1992 Jazz (novel)
1992 Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (non-fiction)
1994 Lecture and Speech of Acceptance, upon the Award of the Nobel Prize for Literature
1996 The Dancing Mind: Speech upon Acceptance of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters on the Sixth of November, Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-Six
1998 Paradise (novel)
1999 The Big Box (with Slade Morrison) (children’s)
2002 The Book of Mean People (with Slade Morrison) (children’s)
2003 The Ant or the Grasshopper? (with Slade Morrison) (children’s)
2003 The Lion or the Mouse? (with Slade Morrison) (children’s)
2003 Poppy or the Snake? (with Slade Morrison) (children’s)
2003 Love (novel)
2004 Remember: The Journey to School Integration (non-fiction)
2004 The Mirror or the Glass? (with Slade Morrison) (children’s)
2005 Who’s Got Game?: Three Fables (with Slade Morrison) (children’s)
2008 A Mercy (novel)
2008 What Moves at the Margin: Selected Nonfiction
2009 Peeny Butter Fudge (with Slade Morrison) (children’s)
2010 The Tortoise or the Hare (with Slade Morrison) (children’s)
2010 Little Cloud and Lady Wind (with Slade Morrison) (children’s)
2012 Home (novel)
2015 God Help the Child (novel)
2017 The Origin of Others (lectures)
2019 The Measure of Our Lives (selections)
2022 Recitatif (story)