A tribute to Toni Morrison
07 Aug 2019
Written by Yewande Omotoso
I remember being about 15, I was in high school and we had to do the Special Author Project. I chose Toni Morrison as my author.
I’d initially chosen Mariama Ba and her beautiful work ‘So Long A Letter’ but we had to pick a writer with at least three works.
What you had to do was read the books by this author and write an essay.
I read all of Morrison’s books at the time; ‘Sula’, ‘The Bluest Eye’, ‘Beloved’, and ‘Song of Solomon’. I read her long essay ‘Playing in the Dark’.
This was before Google but my parents had some video-recorded interviews of Morrison. I sought out biographies, did all the research and wrote up my essay.
Now, up to that point I had been, what I would think of as, a good student. Diligent, and my marks were fine but not particularly outstanding.
This essay, this Morrison essay really marked a turning point for me. I was singled out by my English teacher for having written a really brilliant work.
It was new attention since, up to that point, I hadn’t been someone who’d been showered with academic awards. The moment remains enshrined in memory, a time I began to flirt with literature and the thought of becoming a writer myself.
And ever since and hopefully forever still Toni Morrison remains this figure looking over me, inspiring me to do the best work I can, presiding as it were over whatever my attempts.
I was shocked at the news of her death. Of course, hard as it is to conceive, she is human and should be permitted all things human including that final journey none of us escapes but it seemed incomprehensible to me, a world without this person.
Even as we honour her and acknowledge her passing I choose, with a combination of selfishness and reverence, to keep conjuring her as a presence way above my head, my experience of life will be the better for it.