“‘Faulkner wrote what I suppose could be called regional literature and had it published all over the world,’ [Morrison] said in a 1981 conversation with New Republic. ‘That’s what I wish to do. … [There’s a] suggestion that to write for Black people is somehow to diminish the writing. From my perspective there are only Black people. When I say “people,” that’s what I mean.’”
In the days since Toni Morrison became an ancestor, the outpouring of feeling has served as a testament to her greatness and her impact on the world. Thousands—perhaps millions—of people have shared quotes by her and about her, striving yet inevitably failing to express the fullness of what she meant and what she did here on Earth.
The story that white culture has long told about her is that she is a great novelist. (A great, Black, female novelist, of course.) But her greatness could never be contained in such a limited frame, and the millions of people whose lives she changed won’t allow it. For Toni Morrison, being a writer, an editor, a critic, and a teacher were inseparable from one another. She was all of these at once, and more. The power of language demanded no less.
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