Saint John, New York discussed on Casual Times


At Saint John the divine in New York this is democracy now I'm Amy Goodman Toni Morrison was the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature she also won a Pulitzer Prize as we continue to bring you excerpt from her memorial we turn now to David Remnick editor of The New Yorker magazine Toni Morrison's earliest work did not reach a wide audience not right away but it's fair to say that with time the world caught on you could stock a good size warehouse with all the prizes and certificates an honorary degrees and metals that came her way but she kept the very best of it in her guest bathroom to frame documents one near the sink in the other nearby the first was a Nobel Prize diplomas bestowed in nineteen ninety three by the Swedish Academy the second the second was a letter dated nineteen ninety eight from the Texas department of criminal justice announcing that her novel paradise have been banned from the state's prisons paradise the Texas authorities declared quote contains materials that any reasonable person could construe as written solely for the purpose of communicating information designed to achieve a break down of prisons through in may destruction such as strikes or riots think of it the idea that a novel could cause an uprising and is Tony once put it smiling how powerful is that powerful is one way to describe Toni Morrison her presence her talent her voice were and remain unforgettable a powerful and as much as any artist of her time she shaped how we thought we felt what we read what we teach how we see each other and how we see this troubled country it is as they say a very humbling thing to speak about her and her immense legacy it was so it was certainly a humbling thing to call her on editorial business I once ran Tony to see if she might write something for the magazine she seemed not to care very much about my editorial desperation I can't honey she said I'm baking a cake now how long it takes to bake a cake was not something I was prepared to ask her she knew the score Toni Morrison began her life in letters as an editor she did it to pay the bills but she also found a way to bring honor itching allergy and political purpose to that job she respected protest but she did not March she added it and that was for a time for political work she published a revolutionary almanac called the black book the kind of family scrapbook of three hundred years of American black life and she brought to life anthologies of contemporary African American and African literature work up to shape her and that she wanted you to read she brought for the work of Gail Jones Toni Cade Bambara Angela Davis and a gifted and original young poet name Muhammad Ali editing was a job but it was also her activism her community work and yet in those days Tony's most profound work was furtive it took place at home in the dark beginning at four five six in the morning well her young sons were fast asleep she knew precisely what you wanted to do she wanted to write about black people for black people in the language of the various languages of black people and this Strucker is no more or less peculiar than Tolstoy who wrote in Russian about Russians for Russians it is a reader she noticed long before most academics how black people were barely visible in nearly all the novels of the American renaissance in Poland and thought the Hawthorne she was determined to assert the primacy the complexity the specificity the pain the beauty and the endurance of African Americans and not have to go about explaining it all all the time to anyone else white readers will welcome of course just as French readers were welcome to tell a story but she told her good friend Hilton all's my sovereignty and authority as a racialized person had to be struck immediately and so in those stolen early morning hours she worked and reworked the manuscript about a young girl who was consumed with tragic self hatred and her name specular breed love I wanted to read a book about the most vulnerable person in society female child black and it wasn't around so I started writing it she said and the result of course was the bluest eyes then came saloon then came a song of Solomon and it was at that point that the artist no longer had to work an office job.

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