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Toni Morrison

  • Love is never any better than the lover.

  • Being a minority in both caste and class, we moved about anyway on the hem of life, struggling to consolidate our weaknesses and hang on, or to creep singly up into the major folds of the garment.

  • Anger stirs and wakes in her; it opens its mouth, and like a hot-mouthed puppy, laps up the dredges of her shame. Anger is better. There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth.

  • As is the case of many misanthropes, his disdain for people led him into a profession designed to serve them.

  • There is really nothing more to say — except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.

  • And she had nothing to fall back on; not maleness, not whiteness, not ladyhood, not anything. And out of the profound desolation of her reality she may very well have invented herself ...

    • Toni Morrison,
    • "What the Black Women Think About Women's Lib," in The New York Times Magazine ()
  • ... like any artist with no art form, she became dangerous.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • Sula
    • ()
  • The narrower their lives, the wider their hips.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • Sula
    • ()
  • It's always seemed to me that black people's grace has been with what they do with language. In Lorrain, Ohio, when I was a child, I went to school with and heard the stories of Mexicans, Italians, and Greeks, and I listened. I remember their language, and a lot of it is marvelous. But when I think of things my mother or father or aunts used to say, it seems the most absolutely striking thing in the world.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in The New York Times ()
  • What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not?

  • You think dark is just one color, but it ain't. There're five or six kinds of black. Some silky, some woolly. Some just empty. Some like fingers. And it don't stay still. It moves and changes from one kind of black to another. Saying something is pitch black is like saying something is green. What kind of green? Green like my bottles? Green like a grasshopper? Green like a cucumber, lettuce, or green like the sky is just before it breaks loose to storm? Well, night black is the same way. Might as well be a rainbow.

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

  • I wish I'd a knowed more people. I would of loved 'em all. If I'd a knowed more, I woulda loved more.

  • Her mind traveled crooked streets and aimless goat paths, arriving sometimes at profundity, other times at the revelations of a three-year-old.

  • The loneliest woman in the world is a woman without a close woman friend.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • speech ()
  • Anything I have ever learned of any consequence, I have learned from Black people. I have never been bored by any Black person, ever ...

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in Roseann P. Bell, Bettye J. Parker, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall, eds., Sturdy Black Bridges ()
  • ... the function of freedom is to free somebody else.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in Ms. ()
  • ... there is an incredible amount of magic and feistiness in black men that nobody has been able to wipe out. But everybody has tried.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in Dexter Fisher, ed., The Third Woman ()
  • But I think women dwell quite a bit on the duress under which they work, on how hard it is just to do it at all. We are traditionally rather proud of ourselves for having slipped creative work in there between the domestic chores and obligations. I'm not sure we deserve such big A-pluses for all that.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • 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.

  • The clouds gathered together, stood still and watched the river scuttle around the forest floor, crash headlong into haunches of hills with no notion of where it was going, until exhausted, ill and grieving, it slowed to a stop just twenty leagues short of the sea.

  • Our ancestors are an ever widening circle of hope.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in "Rootedness: The Ancestor as Foundation," in Mari Evans, ed., Black Women Writers ()
  • Everywhere, everywhere, children are the scorned people of the earth.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in Charles Ruas, Conversations With American Writers ()
  • Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.

  • Today is always here. Tomorrow, never.

  • She told them that the only grace they could have was the grace they could imagine. That if they could not see it, they would not have it.

  • Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

  • Grown don't mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What's that supposed to mean? In my heart it don't mean a thing.

  • She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.

  • When you stiffen, you know that whatever you stiffen about is very important. The stuff is important, the fear itself is information.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in The Washington Post ()
  • [On her writing:] The way I do it is the way women have babies. You don't know it's going to be like that. If you did, there's no way you would go through with it.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in Ebony ()
  • If you're going to hold someone down you're going to have to hold onto the other end of the chain. You are confined by your own system of repression.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in Brian Lanker, I Dream a World ()
  • Two parents can't raise a child any more than one. You need a whole community — everybody — to raise a child. And the little nuclear family is a paradigm that just doesn't work. It doesn't work for white people or for black people. Why are we hanging onto it, I don't know. It isolates people into little units — people need a larger unit.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • interview with Bonnie Angelo, in Time ()
  • How soon country people forget. When they fall in love with a city it is forever, and it is like forever. As though there never was a time when they didn't love it. The minute they arrive at the train station or get off the ferry and glimpse the wide streets and the wasteful lamps lighting them, they know they are born for it. There, in a city, they are not so much new as themselves: their stronger, riskier selves.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • Jazz
    • ()
  • Laughter is serious: more complicated, more serious than tears.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • Jazz
    • ()
  • New York is the last true city.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in New York ()
  • In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in Guardian ()
  • Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • Nobel Prize acceptance speech ()
  • Sexist language, racist language, theistic language — all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not, permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • Nobel Prize acceptance speech ()
  • We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • Nobel Prize acceptance speech ()
  • What I think the political correctness debate is really about is the power to be able to define. The definers want the power to name. And the defined are now taking that power away from them.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in The New York Times Magazine ()
  • As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in Rebecca Maddox, Inc. Your Dreams ()
  • All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • "The Site of Memory," in William Zinsser, ed., Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir ()
  • There is a difference between writing for a living and writing for life. If you write for a living you make enormous compromises, and you might not ever be able to uncompromise yourself. If you write for life you'll work hard; you'll do it in a disciplined fashion; you'll do what's honest, not what pays.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in Connie J. Naden and Rose Blue, Toni Morrison ()
  • If writing is thinking and discovery and selection and order and meaning, it is also awe and reverence and mystery and magic.

    • Toni Morrison
  • Race is the least reliable information you can have about someone. It's real information, but it tells you next to nothing.

    • Toni Morrison
  • When there is pain, there are no words; all pain is the same.

    • Toni Morrison
  • One has to work very carefully with what is in between the words. What is not said. Which is measure, which is rhythm and so on. So, it is what you don't write that frequently gives what you do write its power.

    • Toni Morrison
  • The language must be careful and must appear effortless. It must not sweat. It must suggest and be provocative at the same time.

    • Toni Morrison
  • I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.

    • Toni Morrison
  • I sometimes lose interest in the characters and get much more interested in the trees and animals.

    • Toni Morrison
  • If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.

    • Toni Morrison
  • All art is knowing when to stop.

    • Toni Morrison
  • Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.

  • Can't nothing heal without pain, you know.

  • Deep within the word 'American' is its association with race ... American means white, and Africanist people struggle to make the term application to themselves with ethnicity and hyphen after hyphen after hyphen.

  • Black people's music is in a class by itself and always has been. There's nothing like it. The reason for that is because it was not tampered with by white people. It was not on the media. It was not anywhere except where black people were. And it is one of the art forms in which black people decided what is good in it. Nobody told them. What surfaced and what floated to the top, were the giants and the best.

    • Toni Morrison,
    • speech ()

Toni Morrison, U.S. writer, editor, Nobel Prize winner

(1931)

Born: Chloe Anthony Wofford.