August 5, 2020 was the one year anniversary of iconic novelist and essayist Toni Morrison’s death. For many people, Toni Morrison was their first introduction into Black literature; in fact, many parents have challenged her infamous novel Beloved, deeming it violent and sexually explicit. Despite attempts to ban her work, Toni Morrison’s writing and legacy lives on.
The New York Times described Morrison as the “towering novelist of the Black experience,” The first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, Toni Morrison wrote novels, essays, and short stories that are essential to our understanding of American Literature. She accurately portrayed the Black experience while highlighting her writing with a dream-like essence; this can be seen in Beloved, with her portrayal of the trauma and haunting legacy slavery has left on the novel’s main character, Sethe. She describes this trauma through a word she coined herself: rememory. Morrison writes: “Some things you forget. Other things you never do…Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it’s gone, but the place–the picture of it–stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there, in the world.”
Toni Morrison spent her lifetime educating the people around her, from teaching at Princeton University for seventeen years to releasing novels, short fiction, and children’s books up until her death. Some of these works include Home, God Help the Child, “Sweetness,” and Please, Louise. Young writers such as Britt Bennett and Colson Whitehead consider Morrison to be a strong influence on their best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning novels. Despite her tragic death, Morrison continues to have an impact on American literature, and she will continue to do so until the end of time.
Photo courtesy of The New Yorker