Toni Morrison Quotes That Will Light Your Way, No Matter The Situation
Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison passed away Monday night at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, following a brief illness, at the age of 88. I've picked out a number of amazing Toni Morrison quotes to remember her by. Though Morrison has died, the Beloved author should never be forgotten.
Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, on Feb. 18, 1931. Following her separation from Harold Morrison in 1963, she raised her two sons, Harold Ford Morrison and Slade Morrison, in Syracuse, where she worked as an editor for Random House. She published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970, and followed it up with 10 more fantastic works of book-length fiction, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved in 1987. Morrison's last novel, God Help the Child, was published in 2015.
In addition to her adult fiction, Morrison wrote children's books and published works of nonfiction. She and her son Slade Morrison, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2010, collaborated on a number of children's books, including The Big Box and Little Cloud and Lady Wind. Morrison's most recent book, a nonfiction collection titled The Source of Self-Regard, came out in 2019.
Here are some of the best Toni Morrison quotes to move you on this sad day.
“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.”
— from 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.”
— from Sula
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down.”
— from Song of Solomon
“It was a silly age, twenty-five; too old for teenaged dreaming, too young for settling down. Every corner was a possibility and a dead end.”
— from Tar Baby
"Everybody knew what she was called, but nobody anywhere knew her name. Disremembered and unaccounted for, she cannot be lost because no one is looking for her, and even if they were, how can they call her if they don’t know her name?"
— from Beloved
"If you find a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it."
— from a 1981 speech before the Ohio Arts Council
"It's nice when grown people whisper to each other under the covers. Their ecstasy is more a leaf-sigh than bray and the body is the vehicle, not the point. They reach, grown people, for something beyond, way beyond and way, way down underneath tissue. They are remembering while they whisper the carnival dolls they won and the Baltimore boats they never sailed on. ... Breathing and murmuring under covers both of them have washed and hung out on the line, in a bed they chose together and kept together nevermind one leg was propped on a 1916 dictionary, and the mattress, curved like a preacher's palm asking for witnesses in His name's sake, enclosed them each and every night and muffled their whispering, old-time love. They are under the covers because they don't have to look at themselves anymore; there is no stud's eye, no chippie glance to undo them. They are inward toward the other, bound and joined by carnival dolls and the steamers that sailed from ports they never saw. That is what is beneath their undercover whispers."
— from Jazz
"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."
"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."
— from Paradise
"We never shape the world... the world shapes us."
— from A Mercy
"Do they still call it infatuation? That magic ax that chops away the world in one blow, leaving only the couple standing there trembling? Whatever they call it, it leaps over anything, takes the biggest chair, the largest slice, rules the ground wherever it walks, from a mansion to a swamp, and its selfishness is its beauty. ... People with no imagination feed it with sex — the clown of love. They don't know the real kinds, the better kinds, where losses are cut and everybody benefits. It takes a certain intelligence to love like that — softly, without props."
— from Love
"Look to yourself. You free. Nothing and nobody is obliged to save you but you. Seek your own land. You young and a woman and there's serious limitation in both, but you are a person too. Don't let... some trifling boyfriend and certainly no devil doctor decide who you are. That's slavery. Somewhere inside you is that free person I'm talking about. Locate her and let her do some good in the world."
— from Home
"You don't have to love me but you damn well have to respect me."
— from God Help the Child
"Make up a story. ... For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don't tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief's wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear's caul."
— from her 1993 Nobel lecture