Jacket Copy was kind enough to remind us all that today novelist, editor, professor, and all-around literary genius Toni Morrison turns 80 years old. The Ohio-raised, Howard University and Cornell educated Morrison began her career with 1970’s The Bluest Eye. She went on to publish acclaimed works such as Sula, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Lest you continue to downplay Morrison’s significant talent and contribution to literature, know that she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Now know that no other American writer has received the same honor since. Morrison was also selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities for the Jefferson Lecture, which is the United States government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities.
If you’ve not read any of Morrison’s work, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. I’ve yet to read some of her latter works, like Love and A Mercy, but her earlier novels are most certainly intelligent and powerful works deserving of your attention. Given the type of stories I like to not only read but write myself, it should come as no surprise that my favorite of Morrison’s novels is Jazz, a poignant story of love, loss, reconciliation, and, of course, the sounds of rhythms of black life through jazz.
Toni Morrison’s contributions to American literature are invaluable. She is truly a treasure, and I wish her the happiest of birthdays.
Photo: Toni Morrison in November 2010 at the ceremony where she was awarded the French Legion of Honor. Credit: Thibault Camus / Associated Press