Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Born on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio as Chloe Anthony Wofford, Toni Morrison is an American author, editor and professor who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in literature for being an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”

Toni Morrison was born to Ramah and George Wofford and was the second of four children in a working class family. She grew up in the black community of Lorain as her parents moved there to escape the problems of southern racism. During her early childhood Toni, was quite a fan of Jane Austen and Tolstoy. In 1946, Toni got into Howard University in Washington, where she changed her name from “Chloe” to Toni. Later she continued her studies at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. From 1955-1957, Toni taught English at the Howard University and Texas Southern University where she also wrote her first book The Bluest Eye (1970) while taking care of her two children. The Bluest Eye is partly based on Morrison’s story written for a writers’ group, set in the community of a small, Midwestern Town, consisting of all black characters. Morrison’s second book, The Sula (1973), that won the National Book Critics Award, depicted two black woman friends and their community of Medallion, Ohio.

Morrison’s book Song of Solomon (1977) was the main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, which was the first novel after Native Son, written by a black American to be chosen. Through this book Morrison gained international attention. She received the Pulitzer Prize, in 1988, for the novel Beloved (1987), though this book failed to win the National Book Award. Although this work of hers proved to be quite a masterpiece, exploring love and the supernatural. Beloved was eventually turned into a movie starring Oprah Winfrey.

In 1989, Morrison continued to produce great work and also became a professor at Princeton University. After being the first African American woman to have received the Nobel Prize, Toni, published a novel Jazz which circled around martial love and betrayal. During her time at Princeton, she introduced Princeton Atelier, a workshop for writers and performers, in 1994. This program helped the students in creating their own original work in different artistic fields. In 1999, Morrison, branched out to children’s literature. Along with her son, Slade she worked on The Big Box, The Book of Mean People (2002), and The Ant and then Grasshopper (2003).

Morrison resigned from her post at Princeton in 2006, the same year The New York Times Book Review named Beloved the best novel of the past 25 years. She wrote the libretto for Margaret Garner, an American Opera that was debuted at the New York City Opera in 2007.

Her latest novel, Home was published in 2012, even in her 80s she is one of literature’s most renowned storytellers. Along with Home, she also wrote another opera with director Peter Sellar and songwriter Rokia Traore on a production inspired by William Shakespeare’s Othello. While Morrison was writing this novel she had to go through the biggest loss of her life. Her son, Slade passed away in 2010.

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