I had just completed a post celebrating Jamaica’s Independence when I read the news that Toni Morrison had died. My first instinct was to delete the light-hearted post. How could I be joyous when an icon like Morrison, Nobel prize and Pulitzer prize winning author, inspirational on so many levels, had departed this world? Her life’s example suggests that she would encourage us to celebrate her life rather than mourn her death.
Morrison inspires me as a writer with her metaphorical, original, and visionary use of language. I have no doubt that each word she leaves on the page is placed with careful consideration of its contribution to her meaning and the image it leaves in her readers minds.
Morrison inspires me to write truth. To write my stories without tailoring them to mollify the sensibilities of one group of readers or another. She was determined not to write literature that catered exclusively to a white audience, and if you have read Beloved or Tar Baby you will know that she held nothing back. She paved a way for the writers who choose to walk in and therefore enlarge the mark her footsteps have left.
Morrison inspires me to persevere. Although she was a storyteller as a child, she did not write her first novel until she was in her late 30’s, yet she completed almost a dozen substantive novels before passing away this year. Her work reminds us that once we are alive there are stories that we must tell.
Although I did not read this quote from Morrision until after I wrote my first book, it epitomizes the motivation for my journey into being an author and publisher.
I purposely used the present tense here, she inspires me. Her passing from this world does not mean an end to her influence. Her legacy will linger for as long as we read and understand the importance of literature. CNN reports that Morrison once said: “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
Rest in peace Ms. Morrison. #tonimorrison