Updated: Jan 5
A writer's life and work are not a gift to mankind: they are its necessity.
Morrison's work testifies this truth.
Toni was gracious with her words, giving her characters the grace to be human. her prose the space to be poetic. her audience the dignity to come to our own conclusions. She didn’t write what was easy or what we've already seen. She painted pictures of people, places, and perspectives that usually go overlooked and oversimplified.
I read Sula around the same time I started going to Bible Study. Within the first few pages I thought, “This feels like the Bible.” Not because the book is religious--cause it isn't--but rather because of the way it presents themes, the masterful use of symbolism, and the matter of fact retelling of people’s lives. In the Bible, there are dozens of stories that highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly in people. However, the focus always pans out to the larger issues of our world and the necessity for a greater good (i.e. a good God). Moses argues back and forth with God to choose someone else. David commits murder and adultery within the same week. Peter denies Jesus. Sins and shortcomings aside, we still talk about and look up to these people. We find wisdom in their highs and lows. We see ourselves in their raw humanity. The Bible and Toni Morrison have something else in common: they don't sugarcoat oppression. They don't have to roll out fancy academic words and shocking statistics to convince us systems built on sin exist. They just speak truth and challenge us to deduce how such evil came to be and why we must fight it. From Babylon to Beloved. From God shining a light on Judah's treatment of Tamar. To Morrison shining a light on Milkman's treatment of Hagar. I don’t walk away from the Book of Judges thinking “Man, I want to be just like Gideon!” And I can't walk away from Exodus, the prophetic books, and even the Gospels without saying, "Wow, God really hates evil but loves us even more." This writing provides a deeper empathy for humanity, a keener eye for wickedness, and a softer heart for “the least of these." Similarly to the Bible, Morrison tells it like it is without telling us how to feel. She writes in such a way that forces us to mull over the same paragraph--sometimes even the same sentence--over and over again until it grabs our hearts in the way only truth can. She writes to those who have ears to hear. On that note: I would've loved a Bible devotional by Morrison.
I may never get a devotional penned by Morrison unless she decides to drop one in Heaven. Until then, I have her Nobel laureate winner, Song of Solomon, which also happens to be my favorite novel. I first read it as a high school summer reading assignment and will read it again this semester for my college African American Literature class. Morrison’s writing is so rich that I know I will walk away with a completely different level of understanding. I’ll have new convictions. I’ll catch things I missed the first time. This is the same reason I love the Bible. The rich, timeless nature of this kind of writing and wisdom grips me no matter where I'm at in life. It gives me grace to grapple within its grip. It has a distinct voice I will never forget.
I am not calling Toni Morrison God, but I am calling her a woman who knew her mission as His child. Toni Morrison wrote as if her words could change the world.
She walked in a powerful, revolutionary, fully recognized anointing.
Thank you, God, for the life, legacy, and literature birthed through her words for such a time as this. We needed them.
all thoughts by CHATTYAFRO
thumbnail art by CHATTYAFRO