Publishing her novel in 1970, Toni Morrison emerged onto the literary scene in America, taking critics and viewers by storm with what is considered to be her finest works to date "The Bluest Eye". Met with polarizing reception for its compassionate, yet a cruel examination of racism and incest, audiences and scholars alike praised 39-year-old at the time for her brave, but an evocative narrative that gave voice to many resurfacing issues that continue to hamper the African-American Community today.
Winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for her most highly regarded novel "Beloved", and a Nobel Prize half a decade later for the lasting mark she has left on American Literature, the native of Lorain, Ohio, with her commanding voice as candid as it is lyrical like the utterance of a lullaby, is the very personification of the very best storytelling of the late 20th century has to offer. A Magnum Opus of words, here are five of Toni Morrison's most powerful quotes that have left many feeling empowered:
1. "Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all."
Love is love. Nothing more. Nothing less.
2. "In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate."
If you're Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, you're Asian-American. If you're Cuban, Mexican, or have ties anywhere from Central or South America, you're Latin-American. If you're black, you're African-American but if you're white, you're American. Not Irish, British, Scottish, or Franco-American, just American. See the problem?
3. "You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down."
Everyone has a past, a history, and nobody is exempt from one. Least of all a history that paints a past full of mistakes. Mistakes that make us feel that perhaps we ourselves are the mistake and that we're better off leaving the world to move on without us but that's what makes us unique. We produce mistakes as much as we are the product of them, and we are bound to make more. The best we can is learn from them so that when we go on to make the world turn, we can turn it into something beautifullong-lost the past and history love more than the memory of flaws.
4. "Freeing yourself is one thing, claiming that ownership of that freed self was another."
In order to be who you are, you have to shut out the white noise. A noise that never shuts up as far as telling you what you should, or ought to be is concerned. Only you get to be, nobody else, just you. But its hard -- to be yourself when the last thing you know is yourself. But that's what being alive is about. The journey. One where you may never find the answer but that's all its about. The journey. So enjoy it.
5. "Love is never 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."
For an emotion so divine, perfection, and without boundaries, there is no way embody and act out the purity of its essence. Least of all on the count of people. People so confined to the innate presence of flaw that the best they can do is perform a close adaption but an adaption of love isn't love, its just an adaption. Something that can offer us levity, a temporary escape. It doesn't stick around long enough to free us, let alone to conquer -- something anything that masquerades as love must do first.
Now 87, almost five decades older from the time "The Blues Eye" first made its way into public circulation, Toni Morrison still remains for a little longer to leave behind in words and pages what she has already filled with so many words, and many pages--- a song, a lullaby. A lullaby that will continue to sing long after she has stopped singing, and sing to readers anew with an old candor, and long-lost compassion. Compassion to find the lost, for the lost to find themselves, and nameless selves to find a voice. Which they will spell into words of candor, a name. One that speaks to be recognized. Just like all those recognized have a name.