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The 20 Best Lines in Toni Morrison

Rebecca Joines Schinsky

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Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the executive director of product and ecommerce at Riot New Media Group. She co-hosts All the Books! and the Book Riot Podcast. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccaschinsky.

This post is part of our Toni Morrison Reading Day: a celebration of  one of our favorite authors on the occasion of her new novel, Home. Check out the rest right here.


I collected these during my recent re-read of her novels, with a couple assists from Jeff. Please add your favorites in the comments–we’d love to see ’em.


“Love is never any better than the lover.” (The Bluest Eye)

“…the oldest and most devastating pain there is: not the pain of childhood, but the remembrance of it.” (Sula)

“Hell ain’t things lasting forever. Hell is change.” (Sula)

“It was a fine cry–loud and long–but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.” (Sula)

“What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not?” (Song of Solomon)

“Serious is just another word for miserable.” (Song of Solomon)

“If I’d a knowed more, I would a loved more.” (Song of Solomon)

“A house of sleeping humans is both closed and wide open.” (Tar Baby)

“He did not always know who he was, but he always knew what he was like.” (Tar Baby)

“…velvet is like the world was just born.” (Beloved)

“To get to a place where you could love anything you chose–not to need permission for desire–well now, that was freedom.” (Beloved)

“The more coloredpeople spent their strength trying to convince them how gentle they were, how clever and loving, how human, the more they used themselves up to persuade whites of something Negroes believed could not be questioned, the deeper and more tangled the jungle grew inside. But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them to this place from the other (livable) place. It was the jungle the whitefolks planted in them.” (Beloved)

“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” (Beloved)

“How soon country people forget. When they fall in love with a city it is forever, and it is like forever. As though there never was a time when they didn’t love it. The minute they arrive at the train station or get off the ferry and glimpse the wide streets and the wasteful lamps lighting them, they know they are born for it. There, in a city, they are not so much new as themselves: their stronger, riskier selves.” (Jazz)

“What’s the world for if you can’t make it up the way you want it?” (Jazz)

“Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God.’ (Paradise)

“A cross was no better than the bearer.” (Paradise)

“We live in the world…The whole world. Separating us, isolating us–that’s always been their weapon. Isolation kills generations. It has no future.” (Paradise)

“How exquisitely human was the wish for permanent happiness, and how thin human imagination became trying to achieve it.” (Paradise)

“Like friendship, hatred needed more than physical intimacy; it wanted creativity and hard work to sustain itself” (Love)

“She learned the intricacy of loneliness: the horror of color, the roar of soundlessness and the menace of familiar objects lying still.” (A Mercy)

[Thanks to Heather at Between the Covers for the image accompanying this post.]