Tuesday, August 6, 2019


The world is in this room. This here's all there is and all there needs to be.
Sethe, from Beloved 

It seems like everyone is mourning the death of Toni Morrison, and I've been tearing up off and on all day thinking of her, of her spirit, her words, her regal presence, her books, what she meant to me my entire adult life, as a reader and a writer and a human being, and then I was thinking of all the people slaughtered over the weekend, of the piles of dead children, of the human stain of racism in our country, of all that we have to do, to fix and how to be. I first saw Toni Morrison at Spelman College in the late 1980s, shortly after Beloved was published, and I sat in a huge auditorium with hundreds of people, mostly African American young women, and before She walked out onto the stage, a group of women played drums, the beat so steady and rhythmical they presaged her voice, her voice with the words, always, that she put on the page. She walked out, probably at the age I am now, and I was struck then by her presence and by the impact she had had on the women in the room. She was their voice. I read nearly every single thing she wrote. The second time I saw her was not too long ago in Los Angeles, in a theater downtown filled with the mix that is Los Angeles, yet when she walked into the room, she was so grand, so regal, her voice so rich and deep with humor and wisdom, all of us so rapt and smiling and nodding our heads that I thought then: she is all of our voices.

Rest in peace and power, Toni Morrison. Thank you.

This is the time for every artist in every genre to do what he or she does loudly and consistently. It doesn't matter to me what your position is. You've got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else than the best that you've got.

Toni Morrison, in an interview with writer Pam Houston, Oprah Magazine,  2003


  1. "This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain." ... so profound! She certainly did what she did profoundly, consistently and with great presence!

  2. I wish I had seen her speak. I never did.

  3. Thank you for saying what I couldn't find words for. Toni Morrison is one of the great teachers

  4. I love that interview quote. I couldn't stay off of FB yesterday because with all my writer friends, FB turned into the Toni Morrison Channel. Maybe we should just keep that up.

  5. "There is no time for anything else than the best that you've got." I LOVE that. She was so inspirational.

  6. Oh Elizabeth, this is so beautiful, in a raw and sorrowing way. You capture her personal power so vividly, and yes, she was our voice, all our voices. I feel her loss so.

  7. And of all the photos of her, I think the one you chose is my favorite. That's a writer's choice.

  8. I read Song of Solomon first and it was then that I decided to only read women writers and especially Black women. I read everything Toni Morrison wrote, and Alice Walked and Zora Neale Hurston. Eventually I read John Steinbeck because my daughter was reading The Grapes of Wrath in high school.

    But I teared up to hear the news of Toni's death. May she rest with the angels. She brought beauty and truth to the world.



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