by Public Service Associate Juliana
February 18th is Toni Morrison Day in Ohio. To celebrate, I’ve spent the last couple weeks rereading my favorite Morrison novel, Song of Solomon. Toni Morrison’s novels live on the top shelf of my bookcase at home, a space reserved for reverence. I first read her as a college student, and she quickly superseded the ranks to become one of my favorite authors.
In my reading life up to that point I’d been drawn to lyrical, gritty, coming of age tales, but my introduction to Morrison revealed fiction like I’d never experienced it. Her novels conveyed life in a way that I didn’t know was possible on the page. To read Toni Morrison is to engage with the type of writing that you experience both viscerally and intellectually. It’s tight and complex and painfully real. An NPR review of Morrison’s 2012 novel Home summarizes my thoughts of Morrison’s work, declaring it “devastating, deeply humane — and ever-relevant.”
It’s been over a decade since I first read Song of Solomon, and while I remember some of the plot, I am repeatedly blown away by the writing, the way details are layered into each sentence to create surprise as though they are lines of poetry, the way she uses lyricism to convey history, emotion, and experience, the way her prose seems natural, effortless, and completely alive.
Maybe you’ve read a novel or two by the Nobel laureate, or maybe you have always been a bit intimidated because you heard she’s difficult to read. Let Toni Morrison Day inspire you to encounter or reencounter this complex and faithful body of work, to experience the power of literature through the prose of a remarkable talent. Here are a few to get you started with some notes on what might appeal to you.
- Song of Solomon (1977) | print / digital | family saga, character driven, melancholy
- The Bluest Eye (1970) | print / digital | coming of age story, facing racism, complex characters
- Sula (1973) | print / digital | small towns, flawed characters, bittersweet
- Beloved (1987) | print / digital | magical realism, coping with death, haunting
- Home (2012) | print / digital | return from war, leisurely paced, reflective