"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."
It's one of Toni Morrison's most quoted lines, but it is also a roadmap for the literary life she lived so fully.
I was saddened to read of the passing this week of such an amazing author whose work has impacted so many over the years, including me. Winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, Morrison explored critical issues of race, gender, and identity in America through the lens of her luminous writing and story-telling.
I was first introduced to Morrison's work in the 1990s when a friend gifted me with a tattered copy of Beloved, perhaps her most well-known novel, and recipient of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize. As I finished reading it, I knew I had found a new favorite author and quickly devoured more of her work. Song of Solomon and Sula quickly became favorites.
So this week's book list is both an homage to this American literary icon and an encouragement to explore her work on your own (or maybe re-read a favorite!)
Sula, by Toni Morrison
"This rich and moving novel traces the lives of two black heroines from their close-knit childhood in a small Ohio town, through their sharply divergent paths of womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation.
"Nel Wright has chosen to stay in the place where she was born, to marry, raise a family, and become a pillar of the black community. Sula Peace has rejected the life Nel has embraced, escaping to college, and submerging herself in city life. When she returns to her roots, it is as a rebel and a wanton seductress. Eventually, both women must face the consequences of their choices. Together, they create an unforgettable portrait of what it means and costs to be a black woman in America." From GoodReads.com
Available in print in Richmond and Berea and eBook and eAudio through Kentucky Libraries Unbound
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
"Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby.
"Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.
"Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison." From GoodReads.com
Available in print in Richmond and Berea and eBook and eAudio through KY Libraries Unbound
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
"Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly. With this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel García Márquez. As she follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family's origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world." From GoodReads.com
Available in print in Berea and eBook and eAudio through KY Libraries Unbound
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
"The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison's first novel, a book heralded for its richness of language and boldness of vision. Set in the author's girlhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedloves' garden do not bloom. Pecola's life does change -- in painful, devastating ways.
"What its vivid evocation of the fear and loneliness at the heart of a child's yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment. The Bluest Eye remains one of Tony Morrisons's most powerful, unforgettable novels -- and a significant work of American fiction." From GoodReads.com
Available in print in Richmond and eBook and eAudio through KY Libraries Unbound