The first book I read by Toni Morrison was The Bluest Eye. It was the summer of 1979. I was 14 and living with my grandparents. Like all Florida summers, it was hot and my grandmother was out, as usual, visiting with her sisters. So, I sneaked into her room, pulled back the curtains, and opened all of the windows. When the room filled with light and a slight breeze moved through the opened windows, I laid across my grandmother's bed and began reading The Bluest Eye, one of the many books my eighth-grade teacher gave me to read over the summer.
By the time I reached the last paragraph of this book, the room was turning dark, and everything in the room was moving. It took me a moment to realize that it was not the room. It was me shaking all over.
This book moved me so profoundly because it was the first book that I read with a young black girl placed at the center of its narrative with such powerful and poetic language. I went on to read Sula, her second novel, and The Song of Solomon, which received the 1978 National Book Critics Circle Award and propelled her into literary acclaim.
Toni Morrison would go on to write eight more novels, including Beloved, that earned her the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988. In 1993, after the publication of her sixth novel, Morrison became the first African American Woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. With a literary career spanning five decades, Toni Morrison also published several collections of essays and children books along with her son, Slade Morrison. In addition, she worked as a senior editor for Random House during the 1970s and as a professor at Princeton University until retiring in 2006.
As the tributes and memories about this great author pour in during the week, many will attest to her influence as a writer, editor, and even a professor. However, there will be so many who will remember how the power of her words can move a soul.
Linda Cue is an adult services librarian at the Headquarters Branch.