Toni Morrison in the past tense is earth-shattering. To say that Toni Morrison was an American Novelist is to admit that she is no longer with us. Also to say she was a novelist is to underplay the monumental impact that she's had on literature and culture altogether. A Pulitzer Prize winner for her book, Beloved in 1998, and a Nobel Prize winner in Literature in 1993 Morrison is a literary icon.
“If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.”
When I received the news about the passing of the women who gave me pride in being called a writer, I immediately clung to everything Toni. Grabbing books from “Song of Solomon” to “The Bluest Eye” and back again. My Instagram and Twitter were immersed in Toni Morrison qoutes and pictures. Surely, this is immortality, her words forever circling in the heads of those who loved her. My son and daughter will know James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, and Toni Morrison. They will know of the woman who was larger than life on both papers and in person.
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
Morrison's literature brought black lives to the mainstream. She questioned constructs of socitey and uplifted an underrepresented people while also challenging them to be better. She taught me the importance of loving myself but also growing into myself. Storytelling was her weapon and she used it to conquer.
“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.”
As a young black man, I didn't feel like enough books were talking about masculinity, romance, sexuality, and mental health. Also, just starting out as a writer myself I was encouraged to stay away from trivial topics and to write things that people were more likely to click on. Writing about fitness, health, cars, and do it yourself projects just wasn't me. A longing to challenge the construct of manhood kept popping up on every keyboard I laid my hands upon.
I don't think when Toni Morrison sat down to change the world with her writing she thought about what would be clickbait. I believe she thought of the problems she saw, the solutions she dreamt of, and the lessons that the process would bring us. It breaks my heart to speak of Toni Morrison in the past tense.