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Black American Women You Need to Know
Day 19: Toni Morrison
So, i knew that eventually i would end up writing about Ms. Morrison, but i kept putting it off because i was worried that this series is so heavy on writers and folks might be thinking that all Black women are known for is writing or singing. And of course the fact that i am a writer and avid reader probably directly affects why the Black women who have most influenced me are writers. Then i saw this post and realized that, like the dork i am, i had not realized it was Toni's birthday (yesterday, by the time you read this). And isn't that the most marvelous picture of her in that post?! Anyway, it's a day late, but today is Toni's day.
The first book i read of Toni Morrison was The Bluest Eye. Now, you may not know this about me if you read these posts but otherwise don't know me, but i am not Black but NDN. Still, i totally related to the book. i was blessed really because my dad always told me that my brown eyes were beautiful, and my skin was pale enough to "pass" for many years (it wasn't until i was older that really connected with my NDN background, since i had been adopted into a white family). On the other hand, i was told by everyone else that i was not beautiful, and didn't even have the "exotic beauty" that might have made me proud of my heritage. Instead i spent my girlhood fully aware that i was a mongrel, mutt, ugly, unwanted… because that's what i was most told. Perhaps it was also having been sexually abused a lot that helped me to connect to the book very intensely.
After that i read Sula, and that gave me a lesson in what to do with my anger… Next i saw the movie version of Beloved and then read the book. The movie is pretty good, but not surprisingly, the book is even better.
Anyway, Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize winner for her literature, which is taught in many mainstream schools and is highly prized by women of color. She has become highly respected in the wider society (though it's questionnable how well she is truly understood) but remains a mainstay of critical thought for women of color, academics and non. Despite being appreciated and taught in mainstream spheres, Toni has never softened her style or pandered. She is an awesome example for young women and writers.
Just yesterday morning a friend had shared this short story, something i had never read and admit that i was reading it at work in between calls and data entry because it is so fascinating. If you've never read Morrison before, this isn't a bad place to start.