All Articles Tagged "Toni Morrison"
Big screen adaptations of novels written by black authors are few and far between, which is precisely why we shouldn’t just support black movies, but black books as well – especially considering African-American achievements in literature are highly underrated. So definitely give these movies a watch, but do yourself one better and pick up the original books, because we already know that the movies are never ever as good as the original literary work
When award-winning novelist Toni Morrison talks Google listens. The author of such classics as Beloved, The Bluest Eye, and Song of Solomon, recently spoke to the employees of Google, sharing her thoughts on creativity.
During the talk at Google´s Manhattan office, Morrison spoke of vision for how she would turn the search engine leader into a literary character, reports the Huffington Post.
“It’s like a big, metal, claw-y machine in ‘Transformers,’” she said, to much laughter. “When they’re threatened, they turn into a little radio, they turn into a little car. And then after you pass them by they come up again.
“They can be anything and everything.”
Following her talk, Morrison took questions online, part of Google’s “Hangout” series.
Morrison isn’t the first creative to speak at Google. Prior to the 82-year-old Nobel Laureate’s appearance, since 2005 such people as Stephen Colbert and Lady Gaga have visited Google Inc. in New York and the home offices in Mountain View, Calif. Morrison, battling the flu and sniffling through much of the afternoon, was promoting the paperback edition of her novel “Home,” published last year. But she also chatted about technology, teaching and creativity.
According to HuffPo, Morrison spoke candidly about many surprising subjects. “Most of the attendees were young enough to be her grandchildren, and she clearly enjoyed startling them with candid talk about what she likes in literature (please don’t bore her with stories about dating) and about how to use sex in fiction. The first lesson: Forget ‘boobs and butts,’” writes the news site. She continued discuss how she introduced sex in Beloved and about here struggles with her new novel.
Morrison also spoke about how tech has affected her. Morrison it seems was an early endorser of Amazon.com’s Kindle reading device. And she said she’s not a Luddite and does keep up with the Internet. In fact, she prefers the nonfiction she reads on blogs to fiction. ”It shortens research enormously, months of time you would normally spend in libraries, just trying to read books,” she said of the Internet.
She said she even turned to the Internet to help her with her most recent novel, set in the 1950s.
“I was looking for documentation for who could not rent or buy property in Seattle,” she told the Google staff. “And I knew black people couldn’t, but I didn’t have any real examples. But via Google I went through stuff and found these lease arrangements.”
Last fall, I got to “meet” Toni Morrison. I use the term meet loosely because I really just attended a talk she gave and she signed her latest book Home. When she first started speaking, I was surprised by the sound of her voice. I expected it to be full of bass. Deep. But really, it was gravely with high, almost nasally notes interspersed. I took notes and Toni said a lot of noteworthy things; but the moment I didn’t need to write down to remember occurred when the woman in front of me, asked Toni to write an inscription to her daughter in the book she’d just purchased. Now, keep in mind, Toni, who was 80 at the time, had spent over an hour signing hundreds of books. And she signed everyone’s. But her people made it clear that she was not going to be doing anymore than sign her name. So when the woman asked Toni if she could write something to her daughter, Toni smiled, closed the book and told her “No, she wants you to do that.” The woman was visibly disappointed but I couldn’t help put chuckle. But it was so Toni.
Now, I don’t know Toni Morrison personally; but throughout her career, through not only her writing but through her advocacy as well, she’s always told it just like it was. She responded to the “Black is Beautiful” movement by exposing the very real issues of colorism in the black community, with The Bluest Eye. When she noticed that there were stories about slavery that hadn’t been told yet she wrote Beloved. And when critics and fans asked her why she only wrote about black people, she said, no one ever asked James Joyce why he only wrote about Irish people, or why Dostoyevsky seemed so hung up on Russians.”
Toni Morrison, as far as her career as a writer and public figure have gone, has always been honest about the black experience, even if it was painful for some to hear.
So today, on her82nd birthday, celebrate Toni by keeping it real, listening to one of her insightful interviews, meditating on one of her inspiring quotes or, better yet, reading one of her classic works. Love happens to be her favorite. She calls it, “perfect.”
Back in 1773, Phillis Wheatley, a slave, became the first African American to publish a book. Now a new online social network is hoping to help develop more African-American female writers. Black Girls Write Online Network was recently launched with the goal of supporting black women with writing aspirations with things like networking events and webinars. The group is open to black women who have written a book or want to write a book, as well as anyone who wants to work with them.
According to a press release, Maryland businesswoman Teleah Scott-Williams founded Black Girls Write was started to “provide women with the resources, tools, information, motivation, and networking opportunities to help facilitate their growth as accomplished authors.”
“We have got to support each other. I talk with so many African-American women who erroneously believe that publishing a book takes a lot of money, or they think if they write a book, no one will buy it, or they think they are not good enough to be a successful author,” said Scott-Williams in the press release. “Nothing is further from the truth and Black Girls Write can show these same women how they can write and publish their book professionally and inexpensively.”
Caroline McGill is one author who took the self-publishing route and not only publishes her own books but books by other authors. We wrote about how McGill, who is the president of Synergy Publications, did it. Zane is another contemporary writer who has taken an unconventional route with her incredibly successful erotica novels.
African-American female authors are continuously making the bestseller lists. Among the 2012′s bestselling African-American books from Amazon.com (and compiled by Books of Soul) as of September 2012 were The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, which came in at number one; The Cutting Season by thriller writer Attica Locke; Salvage the Bones by award-winning author Jesmyn Ward; The Cartel 4 by Cash Money’s New York Times bestselling writing duo Ashley and JaQuavis; and Home by the legendary Toni Morrison.
Do you have a book in you?
If you’ve been living under a rock for like…forever, Howard University is the historical black college in Washington, D.C. that has been one of the leaders for turning students into future leaders of tomorrow. The school also been the alma mater to many high profile black celebrities. Here are 10 ladies who enrolled at HU and either graduated (some with honors) or made a big impact during their time there.
Taraji P. Henson
The Academy Award nominated actress hustled to make her way through college and support herself. She was first enrolled at North Carolina University Agricultural and Technical. She then transferred to Howard and majored in theater. Henson had a job as a secretary at the Pentagon and was a singer and dancer on a cruise ship to help cover the costs of her education. She graduated in 1995 with a degree in theater arts.
Over at Clutch Magazine, writer Britni Danielle ponders the question, “What Happened to Black Literature?”
In her piece, Danielle reminiscences about a time in most recent history when contemporary black authors created stories “with complex, upwardly mobile black characters who fell in love with abandon, went hard at their jobs, and knew when to relax with their girls.” In admiration of those glory days, Danielle writes the following: “Their tales spoke to me…And there was always drama. Not the ignorant, I’m-going-to-beat-you-down drama of reality TV or street lit books, but the riveting, I-wonder-what-will-happen-next kind that would leave me turning pages late into the night.”
I have read similarly themed articles and columns like this throughout the years. Urban novels, ghetto fiction, street-lit, blaxploitation-on-a-page…whatever name we grace it with, the point is, we all hate it – or at least a few people do, because the stuff is sure selling like hot cakes. Yet despite the popularity among its mostly black readership, there are no shortage of critics who like to shoulder the blame for the “death of Black literature” on this particular sub-genre. Some of you reading this might agree with the notion that the stories themselves are sub-par; nothing more than violent tales of pimps, prostitutes, gangbangers and illicit sex, riddled with spelling errors and bad grammar. Some might even go as far as to say that you feel that these stories present the worst of our community and only seek to fulfill the appetites of a certain ill-bred segment of black America.
Yet, I have no beef with the sub-genre. In fact, going from the ‘hood to the university; and growing up on a healthy diet of diverse black storytelling from Omar Tyree to Alice Walker, I can say that there is no single narrative that can fully represent the entire black experience. I mean, who are we to say what values these books have on the reader and more importantly, to exclude them from being classified as black literature?
My sister-in-law is a self-published author of street lit. Going under the moniker Veronica Black Beauty, she has so far written and published two novels: Lyric: Philly’s Own Princess and Jay: Philly’s Own Prince. Her first novel, Lyric, was written as an ode to her own roots, which started in the projects of North Philadelphia. There she learned how to survive through poverty, sexual abuse, teenage parenthood, being a high school dropout, depression and sickle cell anemia. She had always dreamed of being a nurse and a writer, however, she couldn’t find the strength inside of her to commit to either. That was until the 4-month-premature birth of my first niece, Lyric. She lived for a couple of months before my sister-in-law Veronica and my brother made the difficult choice to let her pass on. To help her heal from the pain of losing a child, Veronica decided to pick up the pen and write about all the turmoil that swirled around in her head. After one month of writing, that turmoil morphed into characters and a semi-fictional plot about a girl from the Richard Allen Projects. Six months later, she had a story.
Today President Obama presented author Toni Morrison and several other deserving recipients with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, during a ceremony at the White House. The medal is presented to individuals who have made “meritorious contributions to the national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to other significant endeavors, and this year’s recipients included a diverse group of Americans.
In addition to Morrison, who is the first African American to win the Nobel Prize for literature, the President also honored former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, astronaut and former Ohio Sen. John Glenn, basketball coach Pat Summitt, rock legend Bob Dylan, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens; Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts; former president of Israel Shimon Peres; John Doar, who handled civil rights cases as assistant attorney general in the 1960s; William Foege, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who was an instrument leader in the effort to eliminate smallpox; Gordon Hirabayashi, who fought the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II; Jan Karski, a resistance fighter against the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II; and Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers of America.
President Obama spoke to the influence of the awardees saying they had a “packed house, which is testament to how cool this group is.”
We agree. Congrats Toni!
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Prolific author, Toni Morrison, is being honored by the White House with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Morrison is just one of 13 recipients of the award. Singer, Bob Dylan and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright are among the other recipients. This award is the highest civilian honor given by the United States government.
President Obama named medal winners as “individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
The White House revisited Morrison’s Nobel Prize citation, calling her an author, “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”
Though Morrison is 81, she has not stopped writing. She’s releasing a new book called “Home” on May 3.
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For most of my life I’ve been more of a heavy magazine reader as opposed to a book club chick. Blame it on the fact that as a journalism major I spent way too much time in college and even before then trying to finish assigned readings. Therefore, I always valued something I could flip through fast. But now that I’m done with school (for now at least), and also since I live in NYC and have to ride the train for a long time, I’ve found myself diving into a good book more and more these days. One of my favorite authors just happens to be Toni Morrison, and I’ve made it a mission to try and read all of her books (as I’ve made it a mission to collect all of Spike Lee’s movies). I’m almost done! But before I’m fully complete with that mission, I thought I would share five of my favorite novels by the Pulitzer Prize winner and encourage you to check them out and/or share with your book clubs. Check it.
I’m a huge fan of powerful female figures in literature that are feared rather than fearful. Why? I’m just weird like that. But you get a character like that in this pretty epic book about secrets, family, friendship and defiance. The individual who the book is named after is raised by an eccentric grandmother and promiscuous mother in a small, once slave-owned town called The Bottom. And after a host of tragedies fall upon her childhood, she grows up and leaves to get an education. But when she comes back, she’s older, cocky and sexually free at a time when people weren’t supposed to be (the 1930-40s), and she turns the town on its head.
When the very married Joe Trace has an affair with a very young woman and in a blind rage, shoots her after she’s caught stepping out on him, he opens a can of worms and drama that only Ms. Morrison could put together on paper. Not only does his wife seek revenge on the dead girl, but she also seeks to find understanding and friendship with her enemy’s aunt. Jazz music is the soundtrack of the novel (which makes sense since it’s set in Harlem in the roaring 20s) and sometimes drives the actions of some of the characters in the story. As in many of her novels, Morrison’s main characters come off crazy as all hell on paper, but they’ve got emotional scars and societal pressures on them that make them that way. Deep stuff.
The Bluest Eye
Man, The Bluest Eye is just one of those novels that breaks your heart. Okay, so I know that doesn’t make you all that excited to check the book out, but it’s so moving and powerful, you can get over the sad aspects. It’s actually Morrison’s first novel, and it examines how folks look at beauty depending on where they are class wise, as well as racially. The protagonist, a young girl named Pecola, hopes and prays that one day she will wake up with blue eyes and that it will possibly change the way she is looked at by her family and the way she is treated by the world around her. Sadly, it never happens, and she endures enough hardships in one year that would break anybody down in one day. I know it sounds kind of depressing, but I assure you, it’s such a gripping read.
Not as huge in notoriety as some of her other works (Beloved, Song of Solomon), Love is a pretty deep novel about two women and the man that tore them apart. Not internally, but tore the two women apart from one another. Said man is late hotel owner Bill Cosey, and the women at odds are his granddaughter and his widow. After his death, they’re like an all-female version of War of Roses, with the two women living together in the man’s decaying mansion waiting for the other to die or to just get up and leave. But despite their coldness to one another, both women once had an undeniable bond before marriage and unexpected adulthood changed them. I won’t tell you how though…I love this crazy book.
When I first read this book for an AP class in high school, I had no idea what was going on once I finished it. People who weren’t supposed to be living were, crazed spirits were turning home of character Sethe upside down, and in the end, the book went over my head. But when I read it over again in college, I was blown away by the depth of the story. It wasn’t just about a woman who hurt her children to protect them and was paying for it, it was also about the psychological effects of slavery on everyone who appeared in the story. Though she was a free slave, Sethe and her family couldn’t outrun her past and the dark history of slavery. I can see why it was named the best fiction book of the past 25 years in 2006 by New York Times critics and is a Pulitzer Prize Winner.
These are just my picks. But what are your favorite Toni Morrison books?
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Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
In a nutshell, this book is best described as Toni Morrison-Lite and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way at all. Personally, I adore Ms. Morrison’s pen and I eat up every layer she offers, but it does require a lot of brainpower to fully appreciate her work. Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, on the other hand, is a book that is Morrison-esque, but without all the fuss–more accessible. The story is set in the 19th century and centers on four slave women who are in Ohio at a summer resort called Tawawa House. That was a real place folks! (More on that later.) Perkins-Valdez explores tough questions about “loving” one’s master, the sometimes complicated bond between slave woman and slave child and most of all, what it means to have sisterhood.
A Noteworthy Passage:
The below passage describes the reunion of two long lost sisters. It’s sweet in every sense of the word. Perkins-Valdez does a beautiful job of making this moment intimate, delicate and feminine.
Lizzie held fast to the woman, not believing him. Polly kissed her on the eyelids. Her lips were wet. She smelled like peaches, and Lizzie sucked the scent through her mouth.
The Most Delicious Things:
I love historical fiction. I love to read an author’s creative take on those little moments that are lost to history. In Wench Perkins-Valdez takes readers inside of Tawawa House, which was an actual resort in Ohio in the 1800s that hosted the southern slave masters who sometimes took their black slave “mistresses” (Such a misleading term, right? I mean how much consent was there in being your master’s other woman?) for the summer. The author paints some extraordinarily vivid pictures of the brutality and tenderness found in such a world.
Perkins-Valdez truly excels at putting readers in the head of the main character Lizzie. If you are someone who has ever wondered how you would have handled life back in the slavery days (Am I the only person who wonders about that?), Lizzie is the slave you just KNOW you would never be. I’ll let you read Wench and find out why that is, but once you learn more about her and her experiences and motivations, you feel like you understand her a bit more.
But can I blow your mind right quick? On the grounds of the former Tawawa House now stands Wilberforce University. Boom. Isn’t that something? There’s not much documentation about Tawawa House, even on the Wilberforce campus. You’ll find little more than a plaque with a couple vague lines about the property’s former use. Can you imagine the tales that will never be told from that place? Well, Dolen-Perkins helps us out with that.
Bits That Could Be A Tad Tastier:
I do not like the ending of Wench even though the ending makes perfect logical sense. Of course I won’t ruin it for you, but there is just something about the ending that leaves me unsatisfied. It’s kind of like eating at a restaurant and having a scrumptious appetizer brimming with spice and unexpected but heavenly textures, a delectable entree drizzled with long-simmered sauces and then they give you half a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a couple sprinkles in a plain ol’ bowl. You were just kinda expecting a little more, right? Right. Even with that though, I still like the book and I’d recommend it–hence it’s inclusion in the Delicious Ink series.
Go get a (copy of) Wench!