18 Toni Morrison Quotes on Love, Race, and Literature

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Katisha Smith

Staff Writer

Katisha is a former military brat who studied engineering because she couldn’t hack it as a writer. You can find her on the internets talking books, movies, pop culture, beauty or whatever is floating her boat at the moment.

Today is the culmination of beautiful blackness because we are still celebrating 28 Days of Black Cosplay, and we are still riding high on Black Panther! WAKANDA FOREVER!!!!! On top of that, today is Toni Morrison’s 87th birthday! In honor of this Black Trifecta, we are sharing 18 of the most powerful, inspirational, and beautiful Toni Morrison quotes, the Nobel and Pulitzer-Prize winning writer of The Bluest Eye.

Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.Nobel Lectures in Literature

“Writing is really a way of thinking — not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious, problematic or just sweet.”

You are your best thing. – Beloved

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.” – New Yorker Interview

I never asked Tolstoy to write for me, a little colored girl in Lorain, Ohio. I never asked Joyce not to mention Catholicism or the world of Dublin. Never. And I don’t know why I should be asked to explain your life to you. – Conversations with Toni Morrison

“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”

Love is or it aint. Thin love ain’t love at all. – Beloved

“Black literature is taught as sociology, as tolerance, not as a serious, rigorous art form.”

We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives. – Nobel Lectures in Literature

“The theme you choose may change or simply elude you but being your own story means you can always choose the tone. It also means that you can invent the language to say who you are and what you mean.” – 2004 Wellesley College Commencement Speech

I’m always annoyed about why black people have to bear the brunt of everybody else’s contempt. If we are not totally understanding and smiling, suddenly we’re demons. – Conversations with Toni Morrison

“No one ever talks about the moment you found that you were white. Or the moment you found out you were black. That’s a profound revelation. The minute you find that out, something happens. You have to renegotiate everything.” –  Salon Interview

Could you really love somebody who was absolutely nobody without you? You really want somebody like that? Somebody who falls apart when you walk out the door? You don’t, do you? – Song of Solomon

All paradises, all utopias are designed by who is not there, by the people who are not allowed in. – Toni Morrison: Conversations

“Some people just close when they get old. But if you’re open, if you have been, you can rely on the lived wisdom of the elderly. It’s not the book learning, it’s the lived wisdom. I ask friends of mine, ‘How old are you, inside?’, and they always know. I know that I am 23. There’s a moment when you just arrive.” – Guardian Interview

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”Interview with Junot Díaz

I sold my elegant blackness to all those childhood ghosts and now they pay me for it. God Help the Child

“Of course I’m a black writer … I’m not just a black writer, but categories like black writer, woman writer, Latin American writer aren’t marginal anymore. We have to acknowledge that the thing we call “literature” is more pluralistic now, just as society ought to be. The melting pot never worked. We ought to be able to accept on equal terms everybody from the Hassidim to Walter Lippmann, from the Rastafarians to Ralph Bunche.”

What are your favorite Toni Morrison quotes? What’s your favorite novel written by Toni Morrison? Have you seen Black Panther? Let us know!