15 Toni Morrison Quotes That We'll Always Remember Her By
"Dream a little before you think."
Toni Morrison, the beloved author known for being the first African-American woman to win a Nobel Prize, died on Monday, August 5, at the age of 88. What made Morrison so unique, in addition to her way with words and ability to command an audience, was her journey: The author was nearly 40 years old when she published her first book, The Bluest Eye, in 1970, and she did so while juggling a career in publishing and raising kids.
Though Morrison's story has tragically reached its end, it was the author herself who said, "We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
So, in honor of her many verbal and written contributions to the world, here are some of the best Toni Morrison quotes and quips that she's left us with.
1. On self-assurance
“I'm not entangled in shaping my work according to other people's views of how I should have done it.”
—Salon interview, 1998
2. On mistakes
“Correct what you can; learn from what you can’t.”
—God Help the Child, 2015
3. On initiative
“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”
4. On love
“Don't ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn't fall in love, I rose in it.”
5. On burdens
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the **** that weighs you down.”
—Song of Solomon, 1977
6. On hurt
“Pain was greedy; it demanded all of her attention.”
7. On emotions
“I want to feel what I feel. What's mine. Even if it's not happiness, whatever that means. Because you're all you've got.”
—The Guardian interview, 2012
8. On anger
"Anger … it’s a paralyzing emotion … you can’t get anything done. People sort of think it’s an interesting, passionate, and igniting feeling–I don’t think it’s any of that–it’s helpless … it’s absence of control–I have no use for it whatsoever."
—CBS Radio interview, 1987
9. On politics in art
“I don't believe any real artists have ever been non-political. They may have been insensitive to this particular plight or insensitive to that, but they were political, because that's what an artist is―a politician.”
—Black Creation Annual, 1974
10. On co-dependence
"You can't own a human being. You can't lose what you don't own. Suppose you did own him. Could you really love somebody who was absolutely nobody without you? You really want somebody like that? Somebody who falls apart when you walk out the door? You don't, do you? And neither does he. You're turning over your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can't value you more than you value yourself."
—Song of Solomon, 1977
11. On power
“As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.”
12. On hate speech
“Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.”
—Nobel Prize lecture, 1993
13. On writing
“Writers—journalists, essayists, bloggers, poets, playwrights—can disturb the social oppression that functions like a coma on the population, a coma despots call peace, and they stanch the blood flow of war that hawks and profiteers thrill to.”
—Burn This Book, 2009
14. On freedom
"To get to a place where you could love anything you chose—not to need permission for desire—well now that was freedom."
15. On death
“Death is a sure thing but life is just as certain. Problem is you can't know in advance.”
And for more great reads on the art of aging gracefully, as Morrison did, here are the 40 Best Books about Getting Older.
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