MIAMI – Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, a pioneer and reigning giant of modern literature whose imaginative power in “Beloved,” “Song of Solomon” and other works transformed American letters by dramatizing the pursuit of freedom within the boundaries of race, has died at age 88. C.L. Brown had just discovered Toni Morrison.
He was actually reading her novel, The Bluest Eye when he learned that the Nobel prize-winning author had died.
“I saw on CNN that she had passed,” said Brown. I thought about what a tremendous loss. But then I questioned if it was really a loss.”
“When you put a book out, it is going to outlive you,” he explained. “She is gone, but her work is still here.”
Toni Morrison, 88, died at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City on Monday.
In her novel, The Bluest Eye, a young black girl named Pecola struggles with her skin color and soulful movement and envisions that she would not be so “ugly” if only she had blue eyes.
The twists and turns of this not uncommon dilemma of young African Americans is set in post-Depression America and as most of Morrison’s work, told from a black woman’s perspective.
“The way she writes is from our culture and our upbringing,” noted Brown. “You can’t but see yourself in her writing.”
Brown’s interest in the life and literary work of Toni Morrison grew after he saw a documentary produced by Magnolia Pictures.
‘The Piece I Am’ chronicles the life of Toni Morrison as developed into a literary and commercially successful writer.
“It was a very grounding experience,” said Brown after seeing the documentary.
“It covered her life. I didn’t know that at 30 years old she realized she was a writer. I sort of connected with that.”
Brown started writing a novel when he turned 30 and put it aside. Since then he has self-published three collections of poems and has developed quite a following and support for his writing.
It was during an interview on Jill Tracey’s radio show that he was invited to preview, The Pieces I Am.
Tracey says her HOT105 radio show on Sunday night at 11P.M seeks to highlight the achievements and discuss the challenges of South Florida. Brown she said, was one of the achievers.
She invited Brown to a private screening of The Pieces I Am in May of this year.
The public screening was not out until June 21.
The documentary followed Morrison’s life from her growing up in Ohio, attending Howard University, and her first job as an editor until she became a full-time novelist, said Tracey. “Her boss became her editor,” said Tracey. “He was the one who said she needed to write after he read Song of Solomon.”
In the documentary, the editor tells Morrison it is time for her to leave the job and she bought a home by the water and simply kept writing.
“He hated to lose her as an editor but upon reading Solomon, he knew he couldn’t be selfish,” said Tracey.
Song of Solomon, published in 1977, follows the life of Macon “Milkman” Dead III from cradle to his adulthood and was cited as a work when Morrison won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.
“My great grandmother was reading nothing but Maya Angelou and Toni Morisson,” said Tracy.
She even described the television stand with the books on the bottom and television on top. All of Morrison’s novels were there.
“I realized that I never picked up one of those books,” said Tracey.
It wasn’t until college that she began to read the works of Toni Morrison. The experience was measurable.
“I never read a black woman who is so fearless,” said Jill Tracey.
“It takes a radical level of authenticity to tell our story.
… cause everything around you tells you that our story is not valid.”
“The more she revealed of herself, the more she took off the bandages of our history. That is what I mean as her being fearless. It takes courage to be honest.”
Born in 1931, Toni Morrison was originally named Chloe Anthony Wofford. She is noted for sharing the American black experience; particularly, the black female experience. Oprah Winfrey helped in gaining a wider audience and internationally recognition for Morrison’s work.