tagged with: Pulitzer Prize

originally posted to Flickr as Toni Morrison by Axel Boldt

I couldn’t help reacting to the breaking news that Toni Morrison, one of the most acclaimed authors of our times, has passed. She was 88 years old. Among her many honors, Ms. Morrison will be remembered as winner of the Pulitzer prize, the Nobel prize, the Légion d’Honneur and a Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to her in 2012 by Barack Obama. 

I was first introduced to Toni Morrison’s work when I selected the 1981 novel Tar Baby for a college English assignment. At the time I’d only heard of Ms. Morrison and was curious to see what made her stand out as one of the literary geniuses of our time.

Tar Baby, with its vivid portrayal of the love/hate relationship between Jadine Childs, a black fashion model and the enigmatic black fugitive, Son, drew me in from the first line (like a tar baby) and held me right down to the last. From then I was hooked by Ms. Morrison’s writing and went on to devour all her works.

Toni Morrison

However, much as I admire her work, I must admit that some of her writing is anything but clear. Some years ago, I wrote about Toni Morrison on this blog:
What I love about Ms. Morrison’s writing is her inimitable way of animating her  descriptions, such that the settings become characters in themselves. Some of her narrative can be very complex and multi-layered, not to mention some of  the subject matter which can be very gothic, making them  difficult to digest, but once you have got it, you savor each bite down to the last morsel. African American literature, and history,  owes a great debt to this extraordinary woman.



Yesterday the world said good-bye to an icon of American literature. Maya Angelou is best remembered for her memoir, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. Much has already been written about Maya’s turbulent, early years and her rise to phenomenal success in the arts, literature and political activism.  Many young people met Maya through her memoir, which was required reading in high schools, and for decades, Maya continued to educate  us with her wisdom and mesmerize us with the magic of her words.


Maya Angelou with Bloomberg and Nadler

Maya Angelou with Bloomberg and Nadler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a writer, I am always looking for words that stir my soul, quicken my pulse and thrill me beyond measure. Maya Angelou’s writing does that to me. This excerpt, taken from the poem Still I Rise is one of my favorites, and I daresay, the favorite of many:


Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


Gifted person that she was, Maya has left us a treasure trove of words that we as writers can live by.  As I reflect on the life and passing of this “great light,” her words inspire me to remember that my beginning does not dictate my end.  Maya’s light shines on.


Maya Angelou Quote




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