Author Spotlight: Toni Morrison
A multi-laureled contemporary novelist, Toni Morrison is the recipient of a Nobel Prize for literature in 1993. Her fiction tackles the struggles of the African American community in the time of slavery. She has eight major novels: The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Jazz, Paradise, and Love—all of which have received critical acclaim.
A Nobel Laureate
Toni Morrison was born in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. The second of four children, she belonged to a working-class family and displayed an interest in literature early on.
She studied humanities at Howard and Cornell Universities and continued with an academic career at Texas Southern University. Other than these, she has worked as an editor for Random House, as well as a critic and lecturer, all specializing in African American literature.
In 1970, she debuted as a novelist and slowly gained the attention of critics and wider audiences because of depiction of Black America. She received the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 and a Nobel Prize for literature in 1993.
Beloved and Song of Solomon
Currently, Morrison has a total of eleven novels, three children’s stories, one short fiction, two plays, a libretto, and seven nonfiction books. Two of her most famous novels are Beloved and Song of Solomon.
Beloved (1987) is set after the American Civil War. It tells the story of Sethe, a slave who manages to escape to Cincinnati, Ohio. After being free for just twenty-eight days, she and her children are retrieved. Sethe kills her two-year-old daughter in order to not have her recaptured. Years later, a woman presumed to be her daughter, called Beloved, haunts her home at 124 Bluestone Road, Cincinnati. This novel was inspired by the story of Margaret Garner, an African American slave who escaped from Kentucky in 1856 by fleeing to Ohio, a free state.
Song of Solomon, on the other hand, follows Macon “Milkman” Dead III from birth to adulthood. An African American man from Michigan, Milkman has a reputation for being a “momma’s boy.” His mother is the daughter of the town’s only black daughter, and she idolizes her father almost to a point of obsession. Overall, the novel deals with African American identity and relationships between each other and in communities.
Awards and Laurels
Other than the Pulitzer and the Nobel, Morrison received multiple awards for her writing. In 1978, she received the National Critics Award for Song of Solomon. Beloved was chosen by the New York Times Book Review in 2006 as the best work of American fiction published within the last century.
She was appointed the Robert F. Goheen Professor at Princeton University in spring 1989 and held the position until 2006. She also taught in Yale, Bard College, and Rutgers. In 1984, she was appointed to the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities at the State University of New York in Albany. She also delivered the Clark Lectures at Cambridge and the Massey Lectures at Harvard. In 1994, she held the International Cordorcet Chair at the Ecole Normale Superieure and College the France.
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