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Words of Wisdom From Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison (1931-2019) was a novelist, book editor, and professor known for her fearless literary explorations of what it means to be a Black American woman. Her first book, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970 and was followed by the critically acclaimed (and widely popular) works Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977) and Tar Baby (1981). She published 11 novels in her lifetime and received several prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her 1987 novel Beloved. But what her millions of admirers remember most about her was her courageous heart.

Throughout her life, Toni Morrison was an outspoken supporter of civil rights, publishing essays on both racism and sexism, eschewing any attempt to pigeonhole her into a particular type of writing.  When asked in a 1998 interview if her novel Paradise should be considered feminist, she replied: “Not at all. I would never write any ‘ist.’ I don't write ‘ist’ novels.”

She strove, always, to be as free as possible with her writing, letting her imagination run onto the page without a thought as to how the finished work would be categorized. In that way, she embodied a beautiful ideal of artistic expression. When she passed away at the age of 88, she left a wealth of written words for the world to cherish. Here, we’ve collected 16 quotes from her novels, speeches, interviews, and other works of writing that inspire us with their passion and truth.

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.

I don’t think many people appreciate silence or realize that it is as close to music as you can get.

Correct what you can; learn from what you can’t.

Chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom.

If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.

Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it, summon it, from even the most tragic of circumstances.

You are your best thing.

There was no accounting for the way that simple joy could shake you.

Your life is already artful — waiting, just waiting, for you to make it art.

Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.

You need intelligence, and you need to look. You need a gaze, a wide gaze, penetrating and roving — thats what's useful for art.

Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try... Show us belief's wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear's caul.

Imagination fosters real possibilities. If you can’t imagine it, you can’t have it.

If you find a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.

Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.

If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.

Photo credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images

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About the Author
April Dávila
April Dávila is a lover of words. Her debut novel "142 Ostriches" was released in 2020.
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