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“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” ~ Toni Morrison
If words are the measure of our lives, the impact of Toni Morrison’s 88 years is immeasurable.
Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award in 1988 and is renowned for having one of the greatest first lines in modern literature: “124 was spiteful.”
She was the first black woman to win a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.
She worked as an Editor for Random House for nearly 20 years, giving a voice to writers and helping others measure their lives in words, in language, in literature.
Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
To experience the true measure of Morrison’s life, her novels provide poignant and profound commentary on family, loss, slavery, racism, religion, and American life. Check them out of your local library, head to your nearest used-bookstore and pick them up, borrow them from your cousin-friend-mother. You won’t regret it, I can almost guarantee.
To experience a taste now, here is a selection of some of my personal favorites from this exceptional woman, whose influence and legacy will remain in every novel, every word, every letter she’s ever written:
“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”
“At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.”
“You are your best thing.”
“And I am all the things I have ever loved: scuppernong wine, cool baptisms in silent water, dream books and number playing.”
“There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up, holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smooths and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind—wrapped tight like skin. Then there is the loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive. On its own. A dry and spreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come from a far-off place.”
“The function of freedom is to free someone else.”
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”