NPR, David Green, Writer discussed on Morning Edition


Slash NPR this is morning edition from NPR news I'm David green and I may tell Martin American writer Toni Morrison died yesterday she was eighty eight years old the only American to win the Nobel Prize in literature since John Steinbeck back in nineteen sixty two and the first black woman to do so her work explored the African American experience in the open wounds of racism in this country here she is speaking on CBS what are you without racism I am a girl I still strong still smart is to like yourself I mean these are the questions it's part of it is yes the victim how terrible it is fitting for black people like I'm not a victim I refuse to be one Rachel Causey guns are profiled Toni Morrison in twenty fifteen for New York times magazine and I sat down with her to talk about Toni Morrison's legacy and what the writer meant to her personally for me and for so many people Toni Morrison is one of the most towering figures in American literature and that's not an overstatement I mean to say that she's iconic through that she's vanguard to see that she's pulled is to only top slightly towards her presence as an absolute genius when Tony Morrison wrote song of Solomon and salon jazz and all of her her novels which she really did it show the world that black America had an interiority and what she did in her capturing of all those details of that she really gave us a record of jester and custom and being and belonging but I think wouldn't have been explicated in that way without her writing how did she permeate the culture as a writer because it was a long time coming I mean more some publishes her first work at thirty nine and before then she had been working at Random House where she had published books by Muhammad Ali him we do mas Angela Davis Huey P. Newton Tony came from bar and Gail Jones and one of the things that she keeps saying as she's working with Gail Jones manuscript is that no other novel about a black woman will ever be the same after that said I think that in some ways she's almost presaging her own work after we start to read Morrison I think we all got a sense of just how good our language was just how powerful black vernacular was and until she did what she did I don't think that we really had a testament to that and in changing the world I think she change the world just by being so genius and after that you couldn't come to the table with anything less than what she was offering because she became the standard she's the metric and yet the establishment was reticent to acknowledge for greatness always can you talk about this letter so in nineteen eighty eight a group of black authors thinkers forty eight of them published inside a statement in the New York times and basically what they were doing was operating the publishing industry for what they called the oversight and harmful Wimsey towards more sand and James Baldwin they were particularly upset that after five novels that we now look back on as being seminal moments in American literature Toni Morrison had yet to win a national book award our Pulitzer Prize it was very important to them that they recognize her and two months later what happened is that Toni Morrison was awarded the Pulitzer for the love it I think what we know that the love it does is that for the first time we got to hear a black woman talking about the experience of slavery as something that happened to the body but also something that haunted us for ever and I think what they were basically demanding is that she could no longer be rendered invisible I mention that you profiled her for the times magazine you describe her as one of your own literary heroes how did you first find your way to her writing I think so much of Morrison's about transgression the first time I've found Morrison's writing with because I was a voracious reader after I learned to read and so I was actually going to my mother's books and I was reading things like Madame Bovary and anything I could get my hands on the more salacious sort of the batter across jazz and I'll never forget that she begins at book with the sound of someone clicking their teeth and I said what is this and I was talking to a friend this morning and she said thank you Tony Morrison for all the work we've read that we didn't understand but we understood before we knew what she was saying and I think when I read jazz I understood all of the woman who did that story understood all the violence that story and I understood all the sexuality in that story and what Morrison did is that she made it very very real she also made it acceptable so more thing could make the spaces that would seem sort of looming and heavy and and Graham very very very very very viable I thought this morning of something check off says check of writes about moss and the Siegel of that I'm in mourning for my life and I think when I think about the loss of twenty Morris and I feel like I'm in mourning for my life because she gave me the world she gave me the universe and I think she did that for a lot of us what do you remember most about the time you got to spend with her for the profile V. thing I remember most in the thing I would like to mention is that I'm thinking of her granddaughters I'm thinking of her sons I'm thinking of her as a real woman not just this author I'm thinking of all the people who love to her editor Errol McDonald I'm thinking of them because Morrison was so incredibly generous and she was never not telling stories and I imagine that that absence is going to weigh on them very heavily as time passes and I think all of us will think that we've lost someone that she's no longer with us but I think what Morrison did is that she left us these words in these words will stay with us forever and and thank god for that losing her is a profound thing and would be at any time and it feels the wound feels deeper right now because of where America is high and because of the truth that she was able to eliminate about racism in this country what do you want people to glean from her work in this moment why why do you think that losing her now is such a wound one of my favorite things that Morrison said is that we don't need anymore writers the solitary heroes we need her wrote writers movement assertive militant and put in a sense and I think losing more so now we lose a sort of role model for being bold for being that dynamic and for knowing that the language can be political that the language is necessary and that language is freedom and I think that as we go forward as writers and thinkers and intellectual thing that we have to do is to to speak with clarity and not let anyone sanitize our voices and our thoughts but also to have the freedom to say the space right here is mine in this writing is where I'm free and no one can tell me what to be and I think when I think about how to be like more center had on her I think thing I want to do most is to continue to write on a simulated black literature that lifts up the love for the people who love for the culture the love for the resistance that we embody in this country as a historical project we took out the contact remembering the life of Toni Morrison thank you so much thank you it's NPR news this is WNYC in New York I'm Richard hake good morning it's.

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