Toni Morrison, the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, was the author of 11 novels as well as children’s books and essay collections. Her books were both critical and commercial successes, and we’ve collected reviews of some of her most significant books, including those by Margaret Atwood, John Irving and more.
“Miss Morrison exposes the negative of the Dick-and-Jane-and-Mother-and-Father-and-Dog-and-Cat photograph that appears in our reading primers, and she does it with a prose so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry … But ‘The Bluest Eye’ is also history, sociology, folklore, nightmare and music … Ms. Morrison’s angry sadness overwhelms.” — John Leonard
An “artful evocation of the black community of Medallion, Ohio … One comes closest glimpsing the heart of ‘Sula’ in the strange career of the title character — Sula herself, who is stamped above one eyebrow with a rose‐shaped birthmark that may be either the mark of Satan or a third eye with which to look into the souls of her people.” — Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
“Toni Morrison’s ‘Song of Solomon’ belongs in [a] small company of special books that are a privilege to review. It may be foolishly fussed over as a Black Novel, or a Woman’s Novel, or an Important New Novel by a Black Woman. It is closer in spirit and style to ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ and ‘The Woman Warrior.’ It builds, out of history and language and myth, to music. It takes off.” — John Leonard
“What’s so powerful, and subtle, about Ms. Morrison’s presentation of the tension between blacks and whites is that she conveys it almost entirely through the suspicions and prejudices of her black characters … Like any ambitious writer, she’s unafraid to employ these stereotypes — she embraces the representative quality of her characters without embarrassment, then proceeds to make them individuals too.” — John Irving
“Indeed, Ms. Morrison’s versatility and technical and emotional range appear to know no bounds. If there were any doubts about her stature as a pre-eminent American novelist, of her own or any other generation, ‘Beloved’ will put them to rest. In three words or less, it’s a hair-raiser.” — Margaret Atwood
“In sharp compassionate vignettes, plucked from different episodes of their lives, the author portrays people who are together simply because they were put down together, people tricked for a while into believing that life would serve them, powerless to change their fate … These are people enthralled then deceived by ‘the music the world makes.’” — Edna O’Brien
“One of the great themes that threads its way through Toni Morrison’s work like a haunting melody is the hold that time past exerts over time present. In larger historical terms, it is the horror of slavery and its echoing legacy that her characters struggle with. In personal terms, it is an emotional wound or loss — and the fear of suffering such pain again — that inhibits her women and men, making them wary of the very sort of love and intimacy that might heal and complete them. In ‘God Help the Child,’ the two main characters (and some of the supporting cast, too) sustained terrible hurts in childhood.” — Michiko Kakutani
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