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Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning-author Toni Morrison has passed away at age 88. Her contributions to the literary world spanned over six decades and her accolades included the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The world often looked to Morrison for wisdom both within the pages of her work and her stirring speeches. Here is a collection of some of Morrison’s most inspiring and powerful thoughts on writing, race, and love.

On love:

“Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.” —Jazz, 1992

“You’re turning over your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can’t value you more than you value yourself.” —Song of Solomon, 1977

On writing:

“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” —During a 2003 interview

“The writing is — I’m free from pain. It’s where nobody tells me what to do; it’s where my imagination is fecund and I am really at my best. Nothing matters more in the world or in my body or anywhere when I’m writing.”—During an interview with NPR’s Fresh Air in 2015

“Make up a story… For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.” —During her Nobel Prize speech in 1993

Toni Morrison

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On success:

“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab bag candy game.” —In the November 2003 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

On race:

“Being a black woman writer is not a shallow place but a rich place to write from. It doesn’t limit my imagination; it expands it. It’s richer than being a white male writer because I know more and I’ve experienced more.” —In a 2003 New Yorker profile

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.” —During a 1975 speech at Portland State

Sundance Institute Honors Risk-Takers In The Arts

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      On art:

      “Your life is already artful—waiting, just waiting, for you to make it art.” —During her Wellesley College Commencement address in 2004

          On freedom:

          “Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” —Beloved, 1987

          “The function of freedom is to free someone else.” —During a 1979 speech at Barnard College

          “If you wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” —Song of Solomon, 1977

          On progress:

          “Our past is bleak. Our future dim. But I am not reasonable. A reasonable man adjusts to his environment. An unreasonable man does not. All progress, therefore, depends on the unreasonable man. I prefer not to adjust to my environment. I refuse the prison of ‘I’ and choose the open spaces of ‘we.'” —Mouth Full of Blood, 2019

          Toni Morrison: Award-winning New York author reads tonight at Harbourfront's International Festival

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          On history:

          “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.” —Beloved, 1987

          “History has always proved that books are the first plain on which certain battles are fought.” —Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, 2019 documentary

          On letting go:

          “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don’t need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens—that letting go—you let go because you can.” —Tar Baby, 1981

          On death:

          “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” —During her Nobel Prize speech in 1993



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