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Remembering novelist Toni Morrison: 5 of her most powerful quotes on work, identity, and freedom

Remembering novelist Toni Morrison: 5 of her most powerful quotes on work, identity, and freedom

Speaking truth

Text: Aravin Sandran


Decorated American novelist Toni Morrison passed away on Monday night at 88 years of age, following a "short illness" according to multiple reports.

She was born Chloe Ardelia Woffod in 1931. She gained recognition for her poetic cultural commentary on the history of black people in America through novels such as Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon. Her writing oeurve inclued five children's books, an opera, and two plays. In 1993, she became the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

In 2012, then U.S. President Barack Obama presented her with the highest civilian award, the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom. Obama took to twitter to remember Morrison.

Here are some of her most powerful words on on work, identity, and freedom.

On work:

"1. Whatever the work is, do it well - not for the boss but for yourself.

2. You make the job; it doesn't make you.

3. Your real life is with us, your family.

4. You are not the work you do; you are the person you are." New Yorker, 2017

On writing:

"If you find a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." —Ohio Arts Council Speech, 1981

On identity:

"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, 2003

On freedom:

"The function of freedom is to free someone else." — Barnard College Speech, 1979

On death:

"We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives." — Nobel Prize Speech, 1993

To learn more about Morrison's life and work, check out the trailer for Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.

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