Saturday, 24 August 2019

Remembering Toni Morrison

Image Source: (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)
Toni Morrison passed away on 5th August. I started to write this post on 12th August but felt somewhat reluctant; it seemed too early to write something. I felt numb, stuck for words ... the right words that is. There were no tears, just a sense of loss.

A week later, after watching and re-watching many You Tube videos of Toni Morrison, I felt more prepared to express my thoughts and feelings. 

Toni Morrison was an African American writer whose outstanding literary work significantly influenced the development of my literary journey; be it reading and/or writing. 

I've always admired Toni Morrison's literature. It was Toni Morrison who set this amazing legacy, a landscape that is universally vast and yet meets the needs of many black and brown people, especially the black women I know.

Toni Morrison's writing is imaginatively crafted and artistically excellent and yet representation and meaning is at its core. It didn't matter that her imagination and novels focused mostly on the African American historical experience. I could relate, especially as Toni Morrison spent her entire writing life trying to make sure that the white gaze was not the dominant one in any of her books.

Image Source:
Also, in the light of Toni Morrison's passing, I remembered my blog post dated 15/10/12 'Blog Action Day - Toni Morrison - A Writer's Influence.' The theme for that year's Blog Action Day was the Power of We. It was a no-brainer choosing Toni Morrison and the focus of writing within a 'community'. 

The Bluest Eye

Here's an excerpt from that blog post where I discuss Toni Morrison's debut novel The Bluest Eye (published 1970) still my favourite:

"...The novel focuses on Pecola Breedlove, a lonely, young black girl living in Ohio in the late 1940s. Through Pecola, Morrison exposes the power and cruelty of white, middle-class American definitions of beauty.  Pecola is driven mad by her consuming obsession for white skin and blonde hair – and not just blue eyes, but the bluest ones. A victim of popular white culture and its pervasive advertising, Pecola believes that people would value her more if she weren't black. If she were white, blonde, and very blue-eyed, she would be loved. Pecola is abused by almost everyone in the novel ... my focus here is with the way that Pecola, a little black girl in the 1940s, still resides in a few black girls and women around the globe now, in our modern 21st century."

I look forward to the time when I can pass on my copy of The Bluest Eye to my granddaughter (now aged 12), when she reaches the age of 15, 16, or 17. It's not that I think my granddaughter couldn't take on the reading; it's that I think a few more years and she'll be even more adept at appreciating and working at, and understanding those multilayered musings.

My admiration of Toni Morrison deepened when I facilitated a two-hour session as part of a Creative Writing course for African-Caribbean women during Black History Month 2004 in Wellingborough, Northamptonsire. In that session we focused on passages of Beloved (published 1984), which became one of my most favourite and memorable teachings.

Given the eternal life of the written word, and Toni Morrison's presence on the Internet, we will continue to be enlightened as we read and tune in to gain yet more insight into the magnitude of her literary legacy as she goes down in history as one of the world's greatest writers.
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How did you feel when you heard Toni Morrison passed away?
What did she mean to you? 
Let me know in the Comments section below.

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