Toni Morrison died on Monday evening, at the age of eighty-eight. A professor emeritus at Princeton University, Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize, in 1988, for her novel “Beloved,” and the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1993. She published seven novels, including “Song of Solomon” and “The Bluest Eye,” before she began contributing to The New Yorker, in 1998. Her nonfiction, as much as her novels, had an ability to illuminate hidden truths, both personal and political. Her first piece for the magazine was a Comment about Bill Clinton and the conclusions of the Starr report, in which she famously called Clinton “our first black President.” Morrison contributed four more pieces to the magazine, including a short story, “Sweetness,” about the relationship between a mother and daughter during the civil-rights era. In 2016, she published an essay in the magazine about the election of Donald Trump. “So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength,” she wrote. “These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble.” Morrison’s prose has the effect of ripping the blinds off the wall and letting the sunlight in. In an email exchange with a New Yorker editor, the day after Trump’s election, she wrote, “Re the future: I am intellectually weapon-ized.” Here are the pieces that she has contributed to the magazine in the course of nearly two decades.
Thanks to the papers, we know what the columnists think. Thanks to the polls, we know what “the American people” think. But what about the experts on human folly? Read more.
“With that skin, there was no point in being tough or sassy, even when you were right.” Read more.
Making America White Again
The choices made by white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status. Read more.
The Work You Do, the Person You Are
The pleasure of being necessary to my parents was profound. I was not like the children in folktales: burdensome mouths to feed. Read more.
The Color Fetish
Of constant fascination for me are the ways in which literature employs skin color to reveal character or drive narrative. Read more.
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