Reading Toni: Explore Morrison’s Body of Work
“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”
—Toni Morrison (1931-2019)
Toni Morrison, Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, and American Book Award winner, passed away today at the age of 88. On the eve of a new biopic about Morrison, Kallie Stahl looked back on the library’s collection of her work. In honor of her life and incredible contribution to American letters, we are re-running a portion of the blog, originally featured in June.
Whether you’re familiar with Morrison’s narratives, looking to re-experience her storytelling before the film, or new to the author’s work, Falvey Memorial Library has a number of Morrison’s novels for you to explore:
- The Bluest Eye (1972) The story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlover—a black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others–who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different.
- Sula (1973) Two girls who grow up to become women. Two friends who become something worse than enemies.
- Song of Solomon (1977) With this brilliantly imagined novel, Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel García Márquez. As she follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family’s origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars, and assassins…inhabitants of a fully realized black world.
- Tar Baby (1981) The place is a Caribbean island. In their mansion overlooking the sea, the cultivated millionaire Valerian Street, now retired, and his pretty, younger wife, Margaret, go through rituals of living, as if in a trance.
- Beloved (1987) Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath is considered to be Toni Morrison’s greatest novel and the most spellbinding reading experience of the decade.
- Jazz (1992) This passionate, profound story of love and obsession moves back and forth in time, as a narrative is assembled from the emotions, hopes, fears, and deep realities of Black urban life.
- Paradise (1997) In prose that soars with the rhythms, grandeur, and tragic arc of an epic poem, Morrison challenges our most fiercely held beliefs as she weaves folklore and history, memory and myth into an unforgettable meditation on race, religion, gender, and a far-off past that is ever present.
- Love (2003) A Faulknerian symphony of passion and hatred, power and perversity, color and class that spans three generations of black women in a fading beach town.
- A Mercy (2008) Reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. But at its heart, it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother and a daughter—a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.
- Home (2012) The story of a Korean war veteran on a quest to save his younger sister. Frank Money is an angry, broken veteran of the Korean War who, after traumatic experiences on the front lines, finds himself back in racist America with more than just physical scars. He is shocked out of his crippling apathy by the need to rescue his medically abused younger sister and take her back to the small Georgia town they come from that he’s hated all his life.
- God Help the Child (2015) A tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult. At the center: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love.
Kallie Stahl, MA ’17 CLAS, is communication and marketing specialist at Falvey Memorial Library. Her favorite Toni Morrison novel is The Bluest Eye.