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Today, Toni Morrison transitioned from living legend to ancestor.
As a writer, a book nerd, a creative, and as a Black Woman, I am in mourning. The world is in mourning, and a simple social media scroll is proof of that. This woman, with her wits and words, captivated generations of us and made us laugh, cry, but most importantly, made us think.
She was more than a Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning laureate, professor, master wordsmith and shade thrower. She was a woman, a Black Woman, with something to say. And for my tender mind, surrounded by words like a child surrounded by fireflies, she was a shining example of how to both capture and release words.
She gave me the words I needed to start writing for myself. "If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it." She gathered me when she said, "You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down." And she reminded me of the freedom that awaited my own creative mind, "If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it."
In honor of her and her legacy, I have decided to share my favorite quotes by her. Rest well, Toni.
"In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate."
"You can't own a human being. You can't lose what you don't own. Suppose you did own him. Could you really love somebody who was absolutely nobody without you? You really want somebody like that? Somebody who falls apart when you walk out the door? You don't, do you? And neither does he. You're turning over your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can't value you more than you value yourself." Song of Solomon
"Don't ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn't fall in love, I rose in it." Jazz
"At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough."
"Anger ... it's a paralyzing emotion ... you can't get anything done. People sort of think it's an interesting, passionate, and igniting feeling—I don't think it's any of that—it's helpless ... it's absence of control—and I need all of my skills, all of the control, all of my powers ... and anger doesn't provide any of that—I have no use for it whatsoever."
"A writer's life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity." The Source of Self-Regard
"And I am all the things I have ever loved: scuppernong wine, cool baptisms in silent water, dream books and number playing."
"Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another--physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion." The Bluest Eye
"The function of freedom is to free someone else."
"You don't have to love me but you damn well have to respect me." God Help the Child
"We never shape the world... the world shapes us." A Mercy
"Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn — by practice and careful contemplations — the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God-carefully. And if you are a good and diligent student you may secure the right to show love. Love is not a gift. It is a diploma." Paradise
"As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think."
"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.'"
"Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined."
“Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved. The lover alone possesses his gift of love. The loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glare of the lover’s inward eye.” The Bluest Eye
“There in the center of that silence was not eternity but the death of time and a loneliness so profound the word itself had no meaning.” Sula
"Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all."
"Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another." Beloved