Morrison is the first Black Woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1993). The motivation for the Prize was, “…who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”
Toni Morrison born 1931 in Lorain, Ohio, is perhaps the most celebrated contemporary American novelist. Awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, Morrison powerfully evokes in her fiction the legacies of displacement and slavery that have been bequeathed to the African-American community.
Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor Emeritus in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University.
Ms. Morrison has degrees from Howard and Cornell Universities. She was appointed the Robert F. Goheen Professor at Princeton University spring 1989, a post she held until 2006. Among the universities where she has held teaching posts are Yale, Bard College and Rutgers. The New York State Board of Regents appointed her to the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities at the State University of New York at Albany in 1984. In 1988 she was the Obert C. Tanner Lecturer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Professor at Syracuse University. In 1990 she delivered the Clark Lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Massey Lectures at Harvard University. In 1994 she held the International Cordorcet Chair at the Ecole Normale Superieure and College de France.
Her eight major novels, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Jazz, Paradise and Love have received extensive critical acclaim. She received the National Book Critics Award in 1978 for Song of Solomon and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Beloved. Both novels were chosen as the main selections for the Book of the Month Club in 1977 and 1987 respectively. In 2006 Beloved was chosen by the New York Times Book Review as the best work of American fiction published in the last quarter-century. Ms. Morrison co-authored the children's books Remember, the Who's Got Game? series, The Book of Mean People and The Big Box. Her books of essays include Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination; the edited collection Race-ing Justice, En-Gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality; and the co-edited collection Birth of a Nation'hood: Gaze, Script, and Spectacle in the O.J. Simpson Case.
Ms. Morrison's lyrics “Honey and Rue,” commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Kathleen Battle, with music by Andre Previn, premiered January 1992; 'Four Songs' with music by Mr. Previn, premiered by Sylvia McNair at Carnegie Hall, November 1994; 'Sweet Talk' written for Jessye Norman with music by Richard Danielpour, premiered April 1997; and 'Woman.Life.Song' commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Jessye Norman with music by Judith Weir, premiered April 2000; the opera 'Margaret Garner' with music by Richard Danielpour, premiered in May 2005.
In addition to Beloved and Song of Solomon, Morrision wrote 7 other novels including; A Mercy (2008), Love (2003), Jazz (1992), Tar Baby (1981), Paradise (1998), The Bluest Eye (1970), and Sula (1974) All of Morrison's fiction, from her first novel, The Bluest Eye, to 1998's Paradise, explores both the need for and the impossibility of real community and the bonds that both unite and divide African-American women.
Morrison has also published a volume of critical work entitled Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination and has authored Dreaming Emmett, a play produced in 1986.
Read “Cynique’s” Review of God Help the Child
Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child is a searing tale about the way childhood trauma shapes and misshapes the life of the adult.
At the center: a woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning
blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and
confidence, her success in life; but which caused her light-skinned
mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love until she told a lie
that ruined the life of an innocent woman, a lie whose reverberations
refuse to diminish…Booker, the man Bride loves and loses, whose
core of anger was born in the wake of the childhood murder of his
beloved brother…Rain, the mysterious white child, who finds in
Bride the only person she can talk to about the abuse she's suffered at
the hands of her prostitute mother…and Sweetness, Bride’s
mother, who takes a lifetime to understand that “what you do to
children matters. And they might never forget.”
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Knopf (May 8, 2012)
America's most celebrated novelist, Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison extends her profound take on our history with this twentieth-century tale of redemption: a taut and tortured story about one man’s desperate search for himself in a world disfigured by war.Frank Money is an angry, self-loathing veteran of the Korean War who, after traumatic experiences on the front lines, finds himself back in racist America with more than just physical scars. His home may seem alien to him, but he is shocked out of his crippling apathy by the need to rescue his medically abused younger sister and take her back to the small Georgia town they come from and that he's hated all his life. As Frank revisits his memories from childhood and the war that have left him questioning his sense of self, he discovers a profound courage he had thought he could never possess again.
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Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Knopf Canada (November 11, 2008)
A powerful tragedy distilled into a small masterpiece by the Nobel
Prize winning author of Beloved and, almost like a prelude to
that story, set two centuries earlier.
Jacob is an Anglo-Dutch trader in 1680s United States, when the slave trade is still in its infancy. Reluctantly he takes a small slave girl in part payment from a plantation owner for a bad debt. Feeling rejected by her slave mother, 14-year-old Florens can read and write and might be useful on his farm. Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master's house, but later from the handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved, who comes riding into their lives . . .
At the novel's heart, like Beloved, it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother and a daughter a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.
Toni Morrison: Conversations
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by Carolyn C. Denard (Editor)
Hardcover: 265 pages
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (June 2008)
Thirty years of interviews with the author of The Bluest Eye, Song of
Solomon, Beloved, and other novels
As a chronicler of the African American experience in fiction and as an incisive cultural commentator in her essays and lectures, Toni Morrison (b. 1931) is regarded as one of the nation's most distinguished novelists and intellectuals. Her novels are richly layered narratives that explore the meanings of tragedy and myth in individual lives. Morrison's perspectives on American life and culture, rendered with a deep understanding of the consequences of history and the power of art, are always compelling.
Toni Morrison: Conversations includes interviews with the Nobel Laureate that bring into the foreground Morrison's comments on American literature and society, the academy, and her own work. She discusses growing up in Lorain, Ohio, her role as editor at Random House, the continuing evolution of her style, her teaching philosophy, and her most recent novels Jazz, Paradise, and Love. This volume includes interviews and profiles from the 1970s and 1980s that were not collected in Conversations with Toni Morrison (1993) and a rich collection of new interviews published together for the first time, including conversations with Paula Giddings, Salman Rushdie, Charlie Rose, and Elissa Schappell.
Carolyn C. Denard is the author of scholarly essays on Toni Morrison and the forthcoming Cambridge Introduction to Toni Morrison. She is Associate Dean of the College at Brown University and founder of the Toni Morrison Society.
Moves at the Margin: Selected Essays, Reviews, and Speeches
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by Carolyn C. Denard (Editor)
Hardcover: 199 pages
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (April 2008)
This Nobel Laureate's reflections on life, writing and other writers
What Moves at the Margin collects three decades of Toni Morrison's writings about her work, her life, literature, and American society. The works included in this volume range from 1971, when Morrison (b. 1931) was a new editor at Random House and a beginning novelist, to 2002 when she was a professor at Princeton University and Nobel Laureate. Even in the early days of her career, in between editing other writers, writing her own novels, and raising two children, she found time to speak out on subjects that mattered to her. From the reviews and essays written for major publications to her moving tributes to other writers to the commanding acceptance speeches for major literary awards, Morrison has consistently engaged as a writer outside the margins of her fiction. These works provide a unique glimpse into Morrison's viewpoint as an observer of the world, the arts, and the changing landscape of American culture.
The first section of the book, “Family and History,” includes Morrison's writings about her family, Black women, Black history, and her own works. The second section, “Writers and Writing,” offers her assessments of writers she admires and books she reviewed, edited at Random House, or gave a special affirmation to with a foreword or an introduction. The final section, “Politics and Society,” includes essays and speeches where Morrison addresses issues in American society and the role of language and literature in the national culture.
Among other pieces, this collection includes a reflection on 9/11, reviews of such seminal books by Black writers as Albert Murray's South to a Very Old Place and Gayl Jones's Corregidora, an essay on teaching moral values in the university, a eulogy for James Baldwin, and Morrison's Nobel lecture. Taken together, What Moves at the Margin documents the response to our time by one of American literature's most thoughtful and eloquent writers.
Remember: The Journey to School Integration
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Format: Hardcover, 78pp
Pub. Date: May 2004
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Age Range: 9 to 12
"On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. This pivotal decision ushered in an emotional and trying period in our nation's history, the effects of which still linger.” Recalling this tumultuous time, Toni Morrison has collected archival photographs that depict the events surrounding school integration. These unforgettable images serve as the inspiration for Professor Morrison's text - a fictional account of the dialogue and emotions of the students who lived during the era of change in separate-but-equal schooling. Remember offers a unique pictorial and narrative journey that introduces children to a watershed period in American history and its relevance today.
Format: Hardcover, 208pp
Pub. Date: October 28, 2003
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
From the internationally acclaimed Nobel laureate comes a richly conceived novel that illuminates the full spectrum of desire.
May, Christine, Heed, Junior, Vida -- even L: all women obsessed by Bill Cosey. More than the wealthy owner of the famous Cosey Hotel and Resort, he shapes their yearnings for father, husband, lover, guardian, friend, yearnings that dominate the lives of these women long after his death. Yet while he is both the void in, and the centre of, their stories, he himself is driven by secret forces -- a troubled past and a spellbinding woman named Celestial.
This audacious vision of the nature of love -- its appetite, its sublime possession, its dread -- is rich in characters and striking scenes, and in its profound understanding of how alive the past can be.
A major addition to the canon of one of the world's literary masters.
This is coast country, humid and God fearing, where female recklessness runs too deep for short shorts or thongs or cameras. But then or now, decent underwear or none, wild women never could hide their innocence -- a kind of pitty-kitty hopefulness that their prince was on his way. Especially the tough ones with their box cutters and dirty language, or the glossy ones with two-seated cars and a pocketbook full of dope. Even the ones who wear scars like Presidential medals and stockings rolled at their ankles can't hide the sugar-child, the winsome baby girl curled up somewhere inside, between the ribs, say, or under the heart.
'from Love, the Hardcover edition.
Song of Solomon
Format: Hardcover, 362pp
Pub. Date: October 1995
Publisher: Knopf Alfred A
Song of Solomon begins with one of the most arresting scenes in our century''s literature: a dreamlike tableau depicting a man poised on a roof, about to fly into the air, while cloth rose petals swirl above the snow-covered ground and, in the astonished crowd below, one woman sings as another enters premature labor. The child born of that labor, Macon (Milkman) Dead, will eventually come to discover, through his complicated progress to maturity, the meaning of the drama that marked his birth. Toni Morrison''s novel is at once a romance of self-discovery, a retelling of the black experience in America that uncovers the inalienable poetry of that experience, and a family saga luminous in its depth, imaginative generosity, and universality. It is also a tribute to the ways in which, in the hands of a master, the ancient art of storytelling can be used to make the mysterious and invisible aspects of human life apparent, real, and firm to the touch.
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Hardcover: 318 pages
Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (December 24, 1997)
Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
"They shoot the white girl first. With the others they can take their time.” Toni Morrison's first novel since she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature opens with a horrifying scene of mob violence then chronicles its genesis in a small all-black town in rural Oklahoma. Founded by descendants of free slaves as intent on isolating themselves from the outside world as it once was on rejecting them, the patriarchal community of Ruby is built on righteousness, rigidly enforced moral law, and fear. But seventeen miles away, another group of exiles has gathered in a promised land of their own. And it is upon these women in flight from death and despair that nine male citizens of Ruby will lay their pain, their terror, and their murderous rage...
Paradise is a tour de force of storytelling power, richly imagined and elegantly composed. Morrison challenges our most fiercely held beliefs as she weaves folklore and history, memory and myth, into an unforgettable meditation on race, religion, gender, and the way a society can turn on itself until it is forced to explode.
Hardcover: 324 pages
Publisher: Knopf (September 29, 1998)
At the center of Toni Morrison's fifth novel, which earned her the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is an almost unspeakable act of horror and heroism: a woman brutally kills her infant daughter rather than allow her to be enslaved. The woman is Sethe, and the novel traces her journey from slavery to freedom during and immediately following the Civil War. Woven into this circular, mesmerizing narrative are the horrible truths of Sethe's past: the incredible cruelties she endured as a slave, and the hardships she suffered in her journey north to freedom. Just as Sethe finds the past too painful to remember, and the future just “a matter of keeping the past at bay,” her story is almost too painful to read. Yet Morrison manages to imbue the wreckage of her characters' lives with compassion, humanity, and humor. Part ghost story, part history lesson, part folk tale, Beloved finds beauty in the unbearable, and lets us all see the enduring promise of hope that lies in anyone's future. Coming from Plume in April 1999, Toni Morrison's #1 New York Times bestseller...Paradise
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Plume; Oprah edition (April 5, 2002)
At its center--a
friendship between two women, a friendship whose intensity first sustains, then injures.
Sula and Nel--both black, both smart, both poor, raised in a small Ohio town--meet when
they are twelve, wishbone thin and dreaming of princes.
Through their girlhood years they share everything--perceptions, judgments, yearnings, secrets, even crime--until Sula gets out, out of the Bottom, the hilltop neighborhood where beneath the sporting life of the men hanging around the place in headrags and soft felt hats there hides a fierce resentment at failed crops, lost jobs, thieving insurance men, bug-ridden flour...at the invisible line that cannot be overstepped.
Sula leaps it and roams the cities of America for ten years. Then she returns to the town, to her friend. But Nel is a wife now, settled with her man and her three children. She belongs. She accommodates to the Bottom, where you avoid the hand of God by getting in it, by staying upright, helping out at church suppers, asking after folks--where you deal with evil by surviving it.
Not Sula. As willing to feel pain as to give pain, she can never accommodate. Nel can''t understand her any more, and the others never did. Sula scares them. Mention her now, and they recall that she put her grandma in an old folks'' home (the old lady who let a train take her leg for the insurance)...that a child drowned in the river years ago...that there was a plague of robins when she first returned...
In clear, dark, resonant language, Toni Morrison brilliantly evokes not only a bond between two lives, but the harsh, loveless, ultimately mad world in which that bond is destroyed, the world of the Bottom and its people, through forty years, up to the time of their bewildered realization that even more than they feared Sula, their pariah, they needed her.
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 8, 2004)
Tar Baby, audacious and hypnotic, is masterful in its mingling of tones--of longing and alarm, of
urbanity and a primal, mythic force in which the landscape itself becomes animate, alive
with a wild, dark complicity in the fates of the people whose drama unfolds. It is a novel
suffused with a tense and passionate inquiry, revealing a whole spectrum of emotions
underlying the relationships between black men and women, white men and women, and black
and white people.
The place is a Caribbean island. In their mansion overlooking the sea, the cultivated millionaire Valerian Street, now retired, and his pretty, younger wife, Margaret, go through rituals of living, as if in a trance. It is the black servant couple, who have been with the Streets for years--the fastidious butler, Sydney, and his strong yet remote wife--who have arranged every detail of existence to create a surface calm broken only by sudden bursts of verbal sparring between Valerian and his wife. And there is a visitor among them--a beautiful young black woman, Jadine, who is not only the servant''s dazzling niece, but the proteg'e and friend of the Streets themselves; Jadine, who has been educated at the Sorbonne at Valerian''s expense and is home now for a respite from her Paris world of fashion, film and art.
Through a season of untroubled ease, the lives of these five move with a ritualized grace until, one night, a ragged, starving black American street man breaks into the house. And, in a single moment, with Valerian''s perverse decision not to call for help but instead to invite the man to sit with them and eat, everything changes. Valerian moves toward a larger abdication. Margaret''s delicate and enduring deception is shattered. The butler and his wife are forced into acknowledging their illusions. And Jadine, who at first is repelled by the intruder, finds herself moving inexorably toward him--he calls himself Son; he is a kind of black man she has dreaded since childhood; uneducated, violent, contemptuous of her privilege.
As Jadine and Son come together in the loving collision they have both welcomed and feared, the novel moves outward--to the Florida backwater town Son was raised in, fled from, yet cherishes; to her sleek New York; then back to the island people and their protective and entangling legends. As the lovers strive to hold and understand each other, as they experience the awful weight of the separate worlds that have formed them--she perceiving his vision of reality and of love as inimical to her freedom, he perceiving her as the classic lure, the tar baby set out to entrap him--all the mysterious elements, all the highly charged threads of the story converge. Everything that is at risk is made clear: how the conflicts and dramas wrought by social and cultural circumstances must ultimately be played out in the realm of the heart.
Once again, Toni Morrison has given us a novel of daring, fascination, and power.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 8, 2004)
Jazz, is spellbinding for the haunting passion of its profound love story, and for the bittersweet
lyricism and refined sensuality of its powerful and elegant style.
It is winter, barely three days into 1926, seven years after Armistice; we are in the scintillating City, around Lenox Avenue, “when all the wars are over and there will never be another one...At last, at last, everything''s ahead...Here comes the new. Look out. There goes the sad stuff. The bad stuff. The things-nobody-could-help stuff." But amid the euphoric decisiveness, a tragedy ensues among people who had train-danced into the City, from points south and west, in search of promise.
Joe Trace--in his fifties, door-to-door salesman of Cleopatra beauty products, erstwhile devoted husband--shoots to death his lover of three months, impetuous, eighteen-year-old Dorcas ("Everything was like a picture show to her"). At the funeral, his determined, hard-working wife, Violet, herself a hairdresser--who is given to stumbling into dark mental cracks, and who talks mostly to birds--tries with a knife to disfigure the corpse.
In a dazzling act of jazz-like improvisation, moving seamlessly in and out of past, present, and future, a mysterious voice--whose identity is a matter of each reader''s imagination--weaves this brilliant fiction, at the same time showing how its blues are informed by the brutal exigencies of slavery. Richly combining history, legend, reminiscence, this voice captures as never before the ineffable mood, the complex humanity, of black urban life at a moment in our century we assumed we understood.
Jazz is an unprecedented and astonishing invention, a landmark on the American literary landscape--a novel unforgettable and for all time.
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Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Plume; Reissue edition (September 6, 2005)
The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, is the first novel written by Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. It is the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove - a black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others - who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning and the tragedy of its fulfillment.
Paperback: 91 pages
Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (July 27, 1993)
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8 inches
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Beloved and Jazz now gives us a learned, stylish, and immensely persuasive work of literary criticism that promises to change the way we read American literature even as it opens a new chapter in the American dialogue on race.
Toni Morrison's brilliant discussions of the "Africanist" presence in the fiction of Poe, Melville, Cather, and Hemingway leads to a dramatic reappraisal of the essential characteristics of our literary tradition. She shows how much the themes of freedom and individualism, manhood and innocence, depended on the existence of a black population that was manifestly unfree—and that came to serve white authors as embodiments of their own fears and desires.
Written with the artistic vision that has earned Toni Morrison a pre-eminent place in modern letters, Playing in the Dark will be avidly read by Morrison admirers as well as by students, critics, and scholars of American literature.
"By going for the American literary jugular...she places her arguments...at the very heart of contemporary public conversation about what it is to be authentically and originally American. [She] boldly...reimagines and remaps the possibility of America." —Chicago Tribune
with Toni Morrison
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by Danille Taylor-Guthrie (Editor)
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (April 1, 1994)
This is a collection of interviews, beginning in 1974, with Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Morrison describes herself as an African-American writer, and these essays show her to be an artist whose creativity is intimately linked with her African-American experience.
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