Two cultural icons, Oprah Winfrey and Toni Morrison, will soon meet in honor of Morrison’s body of work. Morrison will be bestowed with The Center for Fiction’s ‘Excellence in Fiction’ award, which Winfrey will present at the Center’s ceremony on December 11th.
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The Center for Fiction is “the only nonprofit literary organization in the U.S. solely dedicated to celebrating fiction.” The event is co-chaired by Lee Child and Michael Ondaatje, and will also honor Sonny Mehta, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group with the Maxwell Perkins Award.
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Oprah and Morrison have had a long-standing close relationship ever since Oprah produced and starred in a film adaptation of Morrison’s novel, Beloved, for which she received incredible praise.
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Toni Morrison is one of the most beloved and revered names in literature, and on November 17th, Princeton University honored her in the most incredible way – her own building. “This is a very, very special, beautiful occasion for me,” said Morrison during the dedication ceremony for Morrison Hall.
Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber noted Morrison’s rich history with the school, which dates back to 1989 when she first began her role as a professor and Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities for the school.
“How fitting that the first building named through this process will now honor a teacher, an artist and a scholar who not only has graced our campus with the highest imaginable levels of achievement and distinction, but who has herself spoken eloquently about the significance of names on the Princeton campus,” said Eisgruber.
Morrison Hall | Image via Princeton University
Toni Morrison is the first black woman to win a Nobel Prize in literature, due to her honest, unapologetic style of storytelling. Her work often revolves around real events in history, and she has played a major role in bringing black literature to mainstream America.
In honor of one of our favorite authors, here are 10 of our favorite Toni Morrison quotes!
1. “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.”
2. “Anger … it’s a paralyzing emotion … you can’t get anything done. People sort of think it’s an interesting, passionate, and igniting feeling — I don’t think it’s any of that — it’s helpless … it’s absence of control — and I need all of my skills, all of the control, all of my powers … and anger doesn’t provide any of that — I have no use for it whatsoever.”
3. “Love is never any better than the lover.”
4. “She was the third beer. Not the first one, which the throat receives with almost tearful gratitude; nor the second, that confirms and extends the pleasure of the first. But the third, the one you drink because it’s there, because it can’t hurt, and because what difference does it make?”
5. “You’re turning over your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can’t value you more than you value yourself.”
6. “It is sheer good fortune to miss somebody long before they leave you.”
7. “You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn – by practice and careful contemplations – the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it.”
8. “There is really nothing more to say – except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.”
9. “A dream is just a nightmare with lipstick.”
10. “The hopelessness that comes from knowing too little and feeling too much (so brittle, so dry he is in danger of the reverse: feeling nothing and knowing everything.)”
If you missed out reading the classics in high school or college, then you’re probably not motivated to pick any of them up. Unless a teacher is going to fail you for not reading East of Eden (which is roughly 600 pages), then you’re probably just not going to read it. Which would be unfortunate, by the way, because that book is juicy as hell.
Not every classic is intimidatingly long, though. Here are some classic books that are surprisingly short (which, for the purposes of this list, is 250 pages or less).
Whether you’ve read it or not, A Christmas Carol has probably wiggled its way into your psyche. The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come probably walk around your imagination during the holiday season. At less than 100 pages, you might as well curl up on a cold December night and knock this one out.
Night is one of the few classics that’s 100% earned its place as a high school requirement. At 120 pages, there’s no excuse not to read Wiesel’s autobiographical account of how he survived his time in concentration camps. It’s a tale of suffering, cruelty, and, in a way, resiliency. It’s not great for the faint-hearted, but it’s necessary.
Toni Morrison’s classic follows Pecola Breedlove’s quest to fit in despite the color of her skin and brown eyes. It was Morrison’s debut novel, but she tackled heavy issues like race, beauty, and alienation. At a slim 224 pages, put this on your to-read list!
This one is actually two-for-the-length-of-one! ‘Franny’, a short story, was first published in 1955 and Zooey, a novella, in 1957. But they’ve since been published together as Franny and Zooey. The stories follow the two siblings of the Glass family, who were a particular obsession of Salinger’s. Jump into the mind of Salinger with this tale of family drama!
Long John Silver! Billy Bones! Jim Hawkins. Okay, the last one is kind of lame. This classic tale of swashbuckling and seafaring sits at a cozy 240 pages. Between its brevity and exciting tales of piracy, you might be able to finish this on your next day off!
Opening with the main character’s death, Spark’s masterpiece tells the strange story of Lise’s last day alive. It’s a classic among fans of the strange and unsettling. If that’s not your thing, it’s only 112 pages. You might as well give it a try.
It was back in the Spring of 2016 that Morrison delivered a series of Norton Lectures within Harvard University touching on subjects of race, literature, human fears, and social movements. Now those lectures have become six essays stitched together in one eye-opening volume.
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Morrison takes a hard look at the concept of otherness within her own novels, such as Beloved and Paradise. She pulls from the rich history of setbacks and victories of race in America. She also looks at the nineteenth-century efforts to romanticize slavery in the literary world. By drawing on Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner, among other authors, Morrison is able to provide various viewpoints a megaphone.
Once again she gives us something that will launch our thoughts back in time while still firmly aware of contemporary issues.
Britain have just unveiled their £10 note featuring the wonderful Jane Austen, who, 200 years after her death, is still charming readers worldwide. We’ve put together a list of the top five literary ladies we’d love to see grace the faces of America’s banknotes!
1. Dr. Toni Morrison
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Pioneer author and activist Toni Morrison is first on our list. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Morrison is an icon, an expert in her field, and one of America’s most revered writers.
Born on February 18, 1931, in Ohio, her novels, including ‘Sula,’ ‘Jazz’ and ‘Beloved,’ are known for their depictions of race and racism, and their multi-layered, richly drawn African American characters.
Morrison frequently speaks and writes about issues of race in contemporary America, condemning police brutality and the election of President Donald Trump, who is supported by many white supremacist groups.
2. Emily Dickinson
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Arguably the most important American poet of the 19th century, Dickinson was born in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, and was quite reclusive, spending most of her time with her family. Few people passed through her life, but those who did were the subjects of much of her poetry.
She also wrote extensively on abstract themes such as grief, hope, and nature. Dickinson wrote over 1,900 poems in her fifty-six years–all neatly written in handmade paper booklets–in her idiosyncratic style, featuring many dashes of varied length and inconsistent capitalization.
Her volumes of poetry were only discovered by her family after her death in 1886.
3. Dr. Maya Angelou
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Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928, Angelou is best known for seven autobiographical books. But Angelou was also a poet, historian, songwriter, playwright, dancer, stage and screen producer, director, performer, singer, and civil rights activist.
In 1959, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. requested she become the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1974 she was appointed by Gerald Ford to the Bicentennial Commission and later by Jimmy Carter to the Commission for International Woman of the Year. Angelou performed at the inauguration for President Bill Clinton in 1993. In 2000, she received the National Medal of Arts, and in 2010 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
She was also first black woman director in Hollywood, writing, producing, directing and starring in productions for stage, film, and television. She also wrote and produced several prize-winning documentaries, and was nominated for a Tony award for acting twice.
Angelou died on May 28, 2014, in North Carolina, where she had served as Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University since 1982.
4. Joyce Carol Oates
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Oates was born in Lockport, New York in 1938 and has published over 40 novels, in addition to plays and novellas, short stories, poetry, and nonfiction and is one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century.
She has won a number of awards including Norman Mailer Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award and the PEN/Malamud Award.
Many authors cite her as an influence, notably Jonathan Safran Foer, whom she taught at Princeton and for whom she served as senior thesis adviser to any early draft of what would become his celebrated novel ‘Everything is Illuminated.’
5. Esmerelda Santiago
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Born in 1948 in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Esmerelda Santiago moved to the United States at thirteen. She is the author of several books, both novels and memoirs, having come to writing through the creation of documentary and educational films.
She is a spokesperson for public libraries and has developed community-based programs for adolescents, as well as founding a women’s shelter. She serves on the boards of organizations devoted to the arts and to literature. Santiago earned a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and Honorary Doctor of Letters from Trinity College, from Pace University and University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez.