Remembering Toni Morrison 



Like so many writers, our hearts are heavy with the loss of Toni Morrison. From moving emails and tweets to conversations in our hallways and classrooms, we've heard just how much her work has meant to members of the GrubStreet community.

To honor and remember her legacy and her monumental contribution to literature -- in particular the ways in which her creative and critical work has inspired writers and readers of color -- we've decided to collect the thoughts and appreciations about her from our community.

We invite everyone to submit brief stories and anecdotes about how Toni Morrison’s work has impacted you, any favorite articles about her, or meaningful quotes here and we'll share a sample of the submissions in our blog below. 

Sincerely, 

GrubStreet

Please note: Some of the responses below are excerpts or were edited for length. 

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Shirley Jones Luke, GrubStreet Student 

I met Ms. Morrison a few years ago when she came to Cambridge to give a talk. My friend and I were up in the balcony section of a large church. We listened as Toni gave her talk from the stage. She was eloquent and forthright. I was amazed by her. Afterwards, my friend and I were discussing her presentation when Ms. Morrison was wheeled by towards her car. We actual got to meet and speak to her. We shook her hand. I was so happy. 


When she passed on August 5th, I felt as if I had lost my mother all over again. I was devastated. But as I reconcile my grief, I have renewed determination to make sure my voice is heard in the world. That’s the best way I can honor Toni.

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Neha Rayamajhi, Member of Facebook Group

The Bluest Eye gave me language. It gave me words to describe what I was feeling as a little girl who did not like her own body. It gave me an insight to understand all other little and big girls around me who also did not like their brownness and their bodies. Toni Morrison was the first to unburden me of that guilt. She was the first to teach me about White Supremacy and how it seeps in everywhere. How even in a tiny country, continents far away with no white people, children grow up desiring to be white and that desire stays, it continues, it grows, and it breaks us.

Unless we fight it, find language to fight it.

A forever kind of gratitude to this giant, and love.

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Terri Wise, GrubStreet Student 

. . . A few years later, Morrison published a children's book, Remember: The Journey to School Integration, with Houghton Mifflin, where I was working at the time. Unannounced (to me), she showed up in the office cafeteria one day. Needless to say, I abandoned my work and ran to the cafeteria. Fortunately, I was working with people who understood. Some of them joined me. Morrison spoke briefly, and then there was time for a little meet and greet. Though I had nothing to do with her book, I wasn't about to pass up the chance to meet this inspiration, this woman, and this storyteller who meant so much to me. So, very awkwardly, I met her! She was remarkably gracious and even asked me how my thesis went. Ha! How on earth could I answer that question? And how flustered was I that I had given her the information to ask it? I'll never forget that experience; it was wonderful and surreal. We lament the loss of Toni Morrison, and it IS a tremendous loss. Yet she gave us SO much. We have her work, and we will always have that. Sadly, beautifully, nothing lasts forever  except, maybe, great art. Thank you, Toni Morrison. RIP.

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Mark Beaver, GrubStreet Student 

Toni Morrison didn’t write for me.

But it’s a testament to the universality of her work that I saw myself in her books. Morrison loved her characters more than any writer I’ve encountered. She cheered their strengths, empathized with their weaknesses, and celebrated their essential dignity. She rendered them as the complex, contradictory, and fully human beings they were. And in those renderings was a great lesson for me, especially during my twenties when I was first striving to put words on a page that would be meaningful to other people. She taught me more than I can express about writing—and even more about living. She set an impossible standard for writers to—I’d put Song of Solomon, Beloved, and Jazz up against any other writer’s run of three books—but more importantly, her novels showed me much about the potential of the human heart and how far empathy can take us in this often cruel world. 

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Mal Stanton McCunney, GrubStreet Student 

Years ago, I read an interview with Oprah Winfrey, who was asked what she's learned about people in all the years she's been doing television. Her answer was this: "Toni Morrison said that what every child wants to know is, Do your eyes light up when I enter the room? Did you hear me and did what I say mean anything to you? That's all they're looking for. That's what everybody's looking for." 

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Nicholl Montgomery, GrubStreet Student

One of my favorite quotes from Jazz is: "Don't ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn't fall in love, I rose in it."

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Jacquinn Sinclair, GrubStreet Student 

"I’ve read several of Toni Morrison’s books, but the first, The Bluest Eye, remains the most poignant. When I read it, I was too young to fully grasp all Pecola endured. But, her desire for blue eyes and thereby love and acceptance, was something I understood immediately.

I had never read a story about a little brown girl before and I will never forget that feeling.

I thank her for seeing me, for seeing all of us. And, I thank her for sharing our stories with the world." 


About the Author See other articles by Sean Van Deuren

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