is a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, editor, and professor. She was born in Lorain, Ohio in 1931; her father was a welder, and her mother a domestic. This midwestern working-class background would come to inform the settings and characters of many of Morrison's works, especially early novels The Bluest Eye
, and Song of Solomon
Morrison's novels are noted for strong central themes of race, womanhood, and sexuality, as well as subtle explorations of postmodern feminist/womanist politics. Her fiction writing often involves rich character-based and multi-generational storytelling that takes place over sweeping historical periods. Much of her fiction is set in small African American communities in mid-western U.S. cities or the rural southern United States.
Her novels are known for being densely symbolic and full of metaphor, and her plots often feature many folkloric elements and archetypes. Several of her works, such as Song of Solomon
contain aspects of magical realism. Morrison is also noted for her fluid writing style, including heavy use of similes, as well as strategic variances in sentence structure and shifts in narrative perspective, and the inclusion of several distinct styles of dialogue, often within the same work.
She has also authored several non-fiction essays and works dealing with sociopolitical examinations of race and racialization in the United States.
Toni Morrison is widely regarded as one of the most influential voices in postmodern fiction, and her literary contributions have earned her several prestigious honors, including the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel Beloved
, and the Nobel Prize For Literature
, which she received in 1993 for her entire body of work. As of 2014, she is the last American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Works by this author include:NovelsNon-fiction
- The Black Book (1974)
- Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1994)
- Remember: The Journey to School Integration (2004)
- What Moves at the Margin: Selected Nonfiction (2008)
(co-written with Slade Morrison)
- The Big Box (1999)
- The Book of Mean People (2002)
- Peeny Butter Fudge (2009)
- Children's Literature: Morrison co-wrote three children's books with her son, Slade.
- Lit Fic: Her name comes up often as an example of authors in this genre.
- Meaningful Name: Big time. Song of Solomon is the novel most rife with example of her penchant for this.
- N-Word Privileges: She is an African American author, so duh. But she has also been outspoken against efforts to scrub the word from school texts like Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, arguing that it is hypocritical and backwards to erase history instead of trying to examine and learn from it.
- Non P.O.V. Protagonist: Many of her novels involve changing narrators.
- One-Word Title: Six out of her ten novels have a one-word title.
- Trilogy: Morrison has stated that Beloved, Jazz, and Paradise are to be considered a loose trilogy.
- Unconventional Formatting: She is big a fan of this writing tactic, and often uses it to underline certain themes of her works. For example, in The Bluest Eye, a chunk of language intended to spoof the idyllic middle class family perfection of the iconic Dick and Jane books is repeated, first with no punctuation, and then with no punctuation or line breaks, and no spaces between the words.
- Useful Notes: Morrison is also known for jokingly referring to Bill Clinton as the United States's "first black President" in 1998, alluding to the trumped up scandals that plagued his career, culminating in his impeachment trial. The comment was made with respect to the treatment of Democrat Clinton by the Republican-controlled Congress being similar to a black man in the justice system: automatically guilty. Morrison was actually trying to make a point about how the Republicans were too eager to try to get Clinton out of office, but the idea of him being the first black President stuck. Then it became a bit hilarious in hindsight. There are some Unfortunate Implications involved as well, as people seemed to assume that Morrison was also referring to Clinton's well-documented love of fast food and soul food, his love of jazz, and his being raised in a poor, single-parent household, seemingly equating those characteristics with "blackness."
- You Are a Credit to Your Race: She has expressed disappointment at having been labeled and praised by critics as an exceptional African American author, instead of an exceptional mystery author, or historical fiction author, or an exceptional author period. The Nobel Prize helped to curb that, though.