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Life: Toni Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford on February 18, 1931) is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, editor, and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed black characters. Among her best known novels are The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon and Beloved.
Toni Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio to George and Ramah (Willis) Wofford, the second of four children in a working-class family. As a child, Morrison read constantly; among her favorite authors were Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy. Morrison's father told her numerous folktales of the black community (a method of storytelling that would later work its way into Morrison's writings).
In 1949 Morrison entered Howard University, where she received a B.A. in English in 1953. She then earned a Master of Arts degree in English from Cornell University in 1955, for which she wrote a thesis on suicide in the works of William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf.
After graduation, Morrison became an English instructor at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas (1955–57), then returned to Howard to teach English. She became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
In 1958 she married Harold Morrison, a Jamaican architect and fellow faculty member at Howard University. They had two children, Harold and Slade, and divorced in 1964. After the divorce she moved to Syracuse, New York, where she worked as a textbook editor. A year and a half later she went to work as an editor at the New York City headquarters of Random House.
As an editor Morrison played an important role in bringing black literature into the mainstream, editing books by authors such as Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Davis, and Gayl Jones.
Morrison taught English at two branches of the State University of New York. In 1984 she was appointed to an Albert Schweitzer chair at the University at Albany, The State University of New York. From 1989 until her retirement in 2006, Morrison held the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University.
Though based in the Creative Writing Program, Morrison did not regularly offer writing workshops to students after the late 1990s, a fact that earned her some criticism. Rather, she has conceived and developed the prestigious Princeton Atelier, a program that brings together talented students with critically acclaimed, world-famous artists.
Together the students and the artists produce works of art that are presented to the public after a semester of collaboration. In her position at Princeton, Morrison used her insights to encourage not merely new and emerging writers, but artists working to develop new forms of art through interdisciplinary play and cooperation.
At its 1979 commencement ceremonies, Barnard College awarded her its highest honor, the Barnard Medal of Distinction. Oxford University awarded her an honorary Doctor of Letters degree in June 2005
In May 2010, Morrison appeared at Pen World Voices for a conversation with Marlene van Niekerk and Kwame Anthony Appiah about South African literature, and specifically, van Niekerk's novel, Agaat.She is currently a member of the editorial board of The Nation magazine.
Political Viewpoints: In writing about the impeachment in 1998, Morrison wrote that, since Whitewater, Bill Clinton had been mistreated because of his "Blackness":
“Years ago, in the middle of the Whitewater investigation, one heard the first murmurs: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.
After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.”
In the context of the 2008 Democratic Primary campaign, Morrison stated to Time magazine: "People misunderstood that phrase. I was deploring the way in which President Clinton was being treated, vis-à-vis the sex scandal that was surrounding him.
I said he was being treated like a black on the street, already guilty, already a perp. I have no idea what his real instincts are, in terms of race."
In the Democratic primary contest for the 2008 presidential race, Morrison endorsed Senator Barack Obama over Senator Hillary Clinton, though expressing admiration and respect for the latter.
Awards:1977 National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon1977 American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award 1987-88 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award1988 American Book Award for Beloved
1988 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Race Relations for Beloved1988 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Beloved 1989 MLA Commonwealth Award in Literature 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature 1993 Commander of the Arts and Letters, Paris 1994 Condorcet Medal, Paris
1994 Pearl Buck Award1994 Rhegium Julii Prize for Literature 1996 Jefferson Lecture1996 National Book Foundation's Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters2000 National Humanities Medal
In 1993 Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her citation reads: Toni Morrison, "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality."
Although her novels typically concentrate on black women, Morrison does not identify her works as feminist. She has stated that she thinks "it's off-putting to some readers, who may feel that I'm involved in writing some kind of feminist tract. I don't subscribe to patriarchy, and I don't think it should be substituted with matriarchy. I think it's a question of equitable access, and opening doors to all sorts of things."
The Bluest Eye is a 1970 novel by American author Toni Morrison. It is Morrison's first novel, written while Morrison was teaching at Howard University and was raising her two sons on her own. The story is about a year in the life of a young black girl in Lorain, Ohio named Pecola. It takes place against the backdrop of America's Midwest as well as in the years following The Great Depression.
The Bluest Eye is told from the perspective of Claudia MacTeer as a child and an adult, as well as from a third person omniscient viewpoint. Because of the controversial nature of the book, which deals with racism, incest, and child molestation, there have been numerous attempts to ban it from schools and libraries.
Plot summary:Claudia and Frieda MacTeer live in Ohio with their parents. The MacTeer family takes two other people into their home, Mr. Henry and Pecola. Pecola is a troubled young girl with a hard life. Her parents are constantly fighting, both physically and verbally.
Pecola is continually being told and reminded of what an “ugly” girl she is, thus fueling her desire to be caucasian with blue eyes. Throughout the novel it is revealed that not only has Pecola had a life full of hatred and hardships, but her parents have as well. Pecola’s mother, Pauline only feels alive and happy when she is working for a rich white family.
Her father, Cholly, is a drunk who was left with his aunt when he was young and ran away to find his father, who wanted nothing to do with him. Both Pauline and Cholly eventually lost the love they once had for one another. While Pecola is doing dishes, her intoxicated father rapes her. His motives are unclear and confusing, seemingly a combination of both love and hate.
Cholly flees after the second time he rapes Pecola, leaving her pregnant. The entire town of Lorain turns against her, except Claudia and Frieda. In the end Pecola’s child is born prematurely and dies. Claudia and Frieda give up the money they had been saving and plant flower seeds in hopes that if the flowers bloom, Pecola's baby will live; the marigolds never bloom.
In the afterword, Morrison explains that she had met a man named Terry Owens from a down south area. Morrison knew this man while he had children of his own. He was a very nice but harmful man and didn't take any crap from no one.
Morrison explains in a later book that Terry Owens was a veteran from the Vietnam war. " I was a very strong minded man coming from a home where I hadn't learn to read or working for a man that paid nothing much than a dollar."
Ideas of beauty, particularly those that relate to racial characteristics, are a major theme in this book. The title refers to Pecola's wish that her eyes would turn blue. Claudia is given a white baby doll to play with and is constantly told how lovely it is. Insults to physical appearance are often given in racial terms; a light skinned student named Maureen is shown favoritism at school.
There is a contrast between the world shown in the cinema and the one in which Pauline is a servant, as well as the WASP society and the existence the main characters live in. Most chapters' titles are extracts from a Dick and Jane reading book, presenting a happy white family. This family is contrasted with Pecola's existence.
Characters:Pecola Breedlove - The protagonist of the novel, a poor black girl who believes she is ugly because she and her community base their ideals of beauty on "whiteness". The title The Bluest Eye is based on Pecola's fervent wishes for beautiful blue eyes.
She is rarely developed during the story, which is purposely done to underscore the actions of the other characters. Her insanity at the end of the novel is her only way to escape the world where she cannot be beautiful and to get the blue eyes she desires from the beginning of the novel.