I was about 15 when I discovered Toni Morrison.
In my fury of reading ‘dark’ literature, romance and horror, I found her. There was a girl in my Spanish I class that had a copy of The Bluest Eye. I read the back of it, and was enthralled. However, how our high school was set up, I never got the chance to take the class this classmate did.
In my house, there were more books than television sets. At any of my maternal aunts’ houses I visited for that matter, there were books. Harlequin. Avon books. Encyclopedias. Langston Hughes. Toni Morrison. The first book I saw of hers was at my Aunt Stella’s house: Sula.
I finally read The Bluest Eye in my early twenties. I read her next to last book, Home, before I got a chance to read God Bless The Child. I had a habit of lending out my books, and sadly, due to this generosity, I lost a swath of my books. Most of them, by Toni Morrison. Thank God for Amazon, and Amazon Prime’s ability to replenish a library!
I found a home in Toni Morrison, I believe, due to her age and her physical resemblance to my maternal grandmother. I knew that Mother Morrison was getting older, and I knew she would pass away, but this loss? Her loss? It feels as if the world has gotten all the more dimmer. There is more of a chill to my day. There feels like there is all the more, that much more, lack in the world.
The one thing that I have to remember is writing, being a writer, carries its own immortality! Right now, I can go to a library, a book store, or the retail monster known as Amazon and find her! I can find her imagination present in fictitious people or in essays of power and substance. She may be lost, but she is not lost to time! In this, for this reason, am I comforted.
The question is now, how shall we proceed? We have long held up the artists of our parents’ and even grandparents’ generation. We have lauded over them, and protected their memories, with no thought of who will come after them! I understand (and it goes without saying) no one can be Toni Morrison. But what I can say is there are a generation of writers she inspired. Another generation of writers both/all Black, female, woman whom are grateful to her. Whom are steadied by the volume of her work, and whom now, I hope, shall be brave enough to put pen to paper. This is what I want…I want the work of writing to continue! From the accomplished novelists and essayist, to the young girl starting her first journal.
I want the work of writing to continue. This is how best to honor this giant of a woman is to have her spark, remind, invoke, provoke the writers whom will add to the canon of this glorious genre of Black literature.
As her body as surrendered, doing all it was purposed, let us be reminded of her quote in Song Of Solomon:
“If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.”
Ride the air, dearest ones. Ride the air.