Rest in perfect peace dear Toni: Toni Morrison 1931 -2019

Just goes to show how it’s important to keep up with the news here in the UK. Fed up with politicians’ indecisiveness over Brexit or/and Trump’s refusal to accept how he is responsible for stoking up right-wing hatred towards people of colour and different faiths, so I find myself these days reading books and watching too much TV. But today I decided I should check out The Guardian online to read the cultural section and I see a photo of Toni Morrison. It was just her face I saw but I was unable to see the caption under the photo. I repeatedly press the keys to scroll down but my laptop is so stupidly slow but eventually I get there and my worst suspicions are confirmed.  

I discovered Toni’s books some thirty-odd years ago, in a popular black book shop in Tottenham. The first one I bought was Tar Baby. I must have been fourteen when I got this book; I have to be honest and say that I didn’t understand the deeper meanings but I felt it spoke to me in a way other literature did not such as, hair straightening, skin colour (being light skin or dark-skinned) and the ‘friendships’ between black and whites – whether they could ever be real? Issues which I experienced and wondered about, in my life. 

But what was strange – Toni was writing about African Americans in America and yet some of the themes in the book I bought, resonated even though I was of West Indian parentage, born in London.  I thought from the little I understood, how audacious and brave of Toni to write about our issues. Some years later I picked up the book Tar Baby again and just opened to a page to where the narrator explains the protagonist Jardine’s love for Son;

Gradually she came to feel unorphaned. He cherished and safeguarded her.

Reading this is similar to drinking my favourite drink, then pausing to savour every moment.

The second book I read was The Bluest Eye.  Now, this book, I was able to understand. It was so beautiful in its brutal honesty; making it clear to me it was not my fault I had an inferiority complex and that as a result, I disassociated myself from me. I understood clearly it had been imposed on me with neither my consent or permission! I found the book very moving and disturbing in how she was able to say, what was considered, the unthinkable, with ease.

Four years ago, I bought my daughter God Help the Child and she loved it, as she felt it was so pertinent to Black women and in particular to young Black women.

So, thank you, Toni, for all that you have done and helping to put the struggle out there and thanks, for being unapologetic because you have dedicated your talent and commitment to writing about Black people.  I know your soul will rest in perfect peace.  

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