Toni Morrison


Toni Morrison
(1931)


American writer noted for her examination of black experience (particularly black female experience) within the black community. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.
Morrison grew up in the American Midwest. She attended Howard University (B.A., 1953) in Washington, D.C., and Cornell University (M.A., 1955) in New York. After teaching at Texas Southern University for two years, she taught at Howard from 1957 to 1964. In 1965 she became a fiction editor. From 1984 she taught writing at the State University of New York at Albany, leaving in 1989 to join the faculty of Princeton University.

Morrison's first book, The Bluest Eye (1970), is a novel of initiation concerning a victimized adolescent black girl who is obsessed by white standards of beauty and longs to have blue eyes. In 1973 a second novel, Sula, was published; it examines (among other issues) the dynamics of friendship and the expectations for conformity within the community. Song of Solomon (1977) is told by a male narrator in search of his identity; its publication brought Morrison to national attention. Tar Baby (1981), set on a Caribbean island, explores conflicts of race, class, and sex. The critically acclaimed Beloved (1987), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is based on the true story of a runaway slave who, at the point of recapture, kills her infant daughter in order to spare her a life of slavery. Jazz (1992) is a story of violence and passion set in Harlem during the 1920s. A work of criticism, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, also was published in 1992.

The central theme of Morrison's novels is the black American experience; in an unjust society her characters struggle to find themselves and their cultural identity. Morrison's use of fantasy, her sinuous poetic style, and her rich interweaving of the mythic gave her stories great strength and texture.


BIBLIOGRAPHY.
Linden Peach, Toni Morrison (1995); Jan Furman, Toni Morrison's Fiction (1996).

 


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