Tony Morrison, born Chloe Anthony Wofford, is a celebrated African American author. Born in 1931 in Lorain Ohio, she showed a proclivity for literature. Despite this, she studied humanities instead of literature at both Cornell University and Howard University . After this, she began a distinguished academic career, eventually working for Yale, Scribner, and many other distinguished establishments. Eventually she became one of the most memorable writers in American history.
When Morrison was born, she was the second of four children. Her parents were working-class minorities; it was likely nobody assumed she was grow up to be one of the most famous authors of her time. Moreover, it was probably seemed impossible for a girl of her status to rise among the various stereotypes in order to become one of the most recognizable names in American Literature. Yet here we stand, with most of us knowing her name and literary prowess, even if we have not become personally acquainted with her work. In the beginning, those who knew her may have assumed she would follow the footsteps of her parents, join the working class, and become another cog. By the end of her career, she had a lengthy resume, wherein she had become a playwright and dramatist, novelist, poet, political essayist, editor, publisher, and even a teacher and a professor, according to A Yenisi Jimoh’s, “Toni Morrison: Biography .”
Her astonishing career began in 1970, allowing her to rise to her status today as a figurehead not only in the literary community, but as a minority who became more than everybody thought she could be. Both as an African American and as a woman, Morrison broke all of the rules. Recently she won the Nobel Prize and as not only the last American in fifteen years to do so, but also the first African American, allowing for further status to an already impressive career . Today, she still commands a powerful hold over old fans and new alike. They gather at her readings by the hundreds in order to hear her speak her words in her own voice, with the authenticity only she could bring to the material. Today, first edition copies of her earlier novels can cost the average fan $10,000 or more. She continued to set an example, even with ample success under her belt, by continuing to write after she had accomplished both academic and professional success. A new novel, “A Mercy,” was released in 2009, much to the delight of fans across the country .
Her writing is pleasant and poetic. The complex themes of her novels are softened by the soothing rhythmic tone that could only be rooted in a traditional American upbringing, allowing them to sway loftily to-and-fro from serious to humorous. Praise and good criticism aside, many tend to ignore Morrison’s success in favor for pointing out how she depicts Caucasians and men. As a woman and a minority who has been told most of her life she cannot succeed, what better material to put into her novels but what she has experienced her entire life? Drawing on intense core themes of racism, bigotry, misogyny, and human rights, Morrison is not afraid to tackle the issues, and write what she knows. Her writing places emphasis on the African American experience; she acts as an insider. Moreover, it often places women in the middle of the maelstrom of the human experience. In Morrison’s own words, “When I began, there was just one thing that I wanted to write about, which was the true devastation of racism on the most vulnerable, the most helpless unit in the society - a black female and a child.” Her work in this area and many others concerning human rights in general broadened her fan base, as well as her appeal. She speaks about independence, perseverance of the human spirit, and the will to survive, which are things that readers from all backgrounds can relate to in spite of themselves.
Her career has been such that she has now become more than a woman, more than an African American, and more than an author. Toni Morrison has become an icon, and readers respond to this. She symbolizes the beating heart of America, and sometimes she symbolizes everything that is wrong with it. Morrison sheds a light on these issues and, even if they are unwilling to admit the problem, readers are forced to take notice. As a political essayist and activist, she gains more credence as a member in the fight for humanity. Most recently, in a letter to now president Obama, she stated, “You are the man for this time. Good luck to you and to us (2002).” One may interpret this as a letter from one African American to another, but all of Morrison’s work in the humanitarian field would suggest it is a letter from one American to another, as well. She fights for all, even those who disagree with her, in order to better society, leaving the world a nicer place than it was when she entered it.
In sum, Toni Morrison used her knowledge, humanity, and literary prose to become an icon. She is swiftly becoming a legend in many circles. With her work in literature, she draws attention to the struggle for the African American female child. However, other core themes in her work transcend this idea, bringing all Americans together as one. Though we are all different from a young African American girl, we can all relate to the struggle to survive, persevere, and be heard. These are the things Morrison stands for; it is likely she will continue to do so until all the world is listening.
Jimoh, A. Y. (2002). Tony Morrison: Biography. Amherst: University of Masschusetts.
Toni Morrison Biographical. (1993). Retrieved from http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1993/morrison-bio.html