My heart shattered yesterday when I learned of the passing of Literary Mother, Toni Morrison.
In her eloquent prose, she invited me, a Black woman, to fully immerse myself in her words, even when I was a younger woman who was lost in the spiral of mystical storytelling in books like Beloved. The theology of Toni Morrison's canon followed me almost twenty years later when I entered seminary, as a womanist, I invoked the sermons of the Baby Suggs character.
Toni Morrison was one of those we, I thought would just be with us forever. In her, I found the possible, the determined. She wrote with little boys in tow, divorced, and sneaking precious lines in the wee hours of the morning. In finding her own voice, she gave us permission to find our own. I remember hesitating, even as I collected more of her works and invited my Hurston and Hughes Literary Circle teens to discover her brilliance.
Something felt like the universe would Never be the same when she made her quiet departure, and it will not.
I immediately went to my many bookshelves and found myself cherishing every copy. I have my original copy of Beloved as well as a recent one I purchased for time with my teens. In arms reach at my desk were more books, like the cherished one I purchased this past March in honor of my seminary graduation. I marveled that at 88, she was still writing, and hoped to be like her, honing my craft and giving myself permission to say what I wanted to say.
The beauty of Toni Morrison, to me, is that she was unapologetic about being black, woman, and older when she started her craft. She made room for herself and in so doing, made room for me.
Zora (my sorority sister), Maya, and Toni are, in my mind's eye, joining with Pauli and Nella and Ann, with Phyllis and Frances, to sit around their heavenly writing table, with coffee and teacakes to tell the rest of us that we are free to create and imagine, that they are their cheering us on, and there is more to say.
Rest well, Mama Toni, we will write the book we must read.
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