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  • Writer's pictureAdelaide Fuller

Happy Birthday, Toni Morrison.

Today would have been Toni Morrison's 90th birthday. She is the only African American writer and one of the few women to have received the Nobel prize for literature. Morrison channeled her childhood love of storytelling into a BA from Howard University and an MA in English from Cornell, and after graduating she became a senior editor at Random House Publishing. She held that position for 20 years, during which time she developed an extensive canon of Black work. She then moved on to produce work of her own, which became some of the most celebrated pieces of American literature: Beloved, The Song of Solomon, Love, and more.

Morrison compared her writing and its technique to music in the way its significance, tone and meaning can shift each time it's read. She crafted her 'music' with a style, structure and tone that is specifically African American. She used this same lens to construct her content. In a 1998 interview, she declared: “'The black narrative has always been understood to be a confrontation with some white people ... They’re not terribly interesting to me. What is interesting to me is what is going on within the community. And within the community, there are no major white players. Once I thought: ‘What is life like if they weren’t there?’ Which is the way we lived it, the way I lived it.'" This perspective was just as important to her as the way she crafted words. In her acceptance speech for the 1993 Nobel prize, Morrison emphasized the importance of language “partly as a system, partly as a living thing over which one has control, but mostly as an agency – as an act with consequences”. Toni Morrison's death was felt keenly in the literary world, but the beauty is that her voice lives on. In her own words: "We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives." - Adelaide Fuller

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