Beloved Author Toni Morrison’s Most Unforgettable Quotes

Pin It
Novelist Toni Morrison Discusses Playwriting
Novelist Toni Morrison Discusses PlaywritingBettmann / Getty

In the wake of her death, we present the American novelist’s most powerful quotes, paying tribute to her life and work

Toni Morrison, the legendary American novelist, Nobel Laureate and author of Beloved has died at the age of 88. Writing 11 novels across her lifetime, as well as children’s books and essays, Morrison’s work is best known for exploring what it means to be black in America, and what it means to be a black woman – centring experiences that have historically been relegated to the literary margins. Her work straddles both critical and commercial success; Morrison won a Pulitzer Prize for Beloved, written in 1987, which remains her most well-known work. It tells the story of an African-American slave, Margaret Garner, haunted by the spectre of her murdered child – later, it would become a film, starring Oprah Winfrey, who Morrison remained close to throughout her life. Other celebrated novels included Song of Solomon (1977) and The Bluest Eye (1970), the latter telling the story of a young, African-American girl named Pecola who grows up in the wake of the Great Depression and, seen as “ugly”, develops an inferiority complex and a desire for blue eyes which she associates with whiteness. Her final novel, God Help the Child was published in 2015. Morrison’s visionary prose and indebible presence – demonstrated in numerous speaking engagements around the world – sees her leave behind a vast legacy, which has forever shifted the boundaries of American literature. Here, in celebration, her most powerful quotes, paying tribute to her life and work.

  1. “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
  2. “In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”
  3. “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough.”
  4. “Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind.”
  5. “The presence of evil was something to be first recognised, then dealt with, survived, outwitted, triumphed over.”
  6. “Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”
  7. “I don’t think a female running a house is a problem, a broken family. It's perceived as one because of the notion that a head is a man.”
  8. “As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.”
  9. “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”
  10. “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”