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Toni Morrison (Toni Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison) Biography

(1931– ), (Toni Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison), The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved

American novelist, born in Lorain, Ohio, educated at Howard and Cornell Universities. Since graduation, she has worked as a teacher at various American universities, and as a senior editor at Random House Press, editing the work of several of her contemporaries. Her own fiction, using a blend of realism, history, myth, folktale, and poetic fantasy, attempts to describe the different political realities of black America and the influence of sexual divisions within black experiences. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), present a bleak world through the perspective of two adolescent girls in which the social unhappiness of the black population is conditioned by white ideology. Sula (1974) shatters black female stereotypes in its powerful exploration of the friendship between Sula and Nel and the demise of the community they inhabit. Then came Song of Solomon (1977), a haunting study of racism and its effects on several generations of a family. The exploration of the relationship between blacks and whites is the central focus of Tar Baby (1981), which traces a sophisticated black model's educational experience at the Sorbonne, supported by white benefactors. Morrison's acclaimed novel Beloved (1987) is a dense and complex investigation of family commitments and ties set in the years immediately before and after Reconstruction; its blend of realistic description of sexuality and violence, and its fantastic evocation of the influence of the past, make it one of the finest novels of its period. Jazz (1992) is set in Harlem, in ‘the City’, in spring 1926, and presents the story of Joe and Violet Trace, a middle-aged married couple. Joe's murder of his young lover Dorcas initiates an eruption of memories through which the narrator ‘traces’ the movement of blacks from the poor rural South to the dangerously hypnotic North, showing an intolerable crisis in individual lives. In an avowedly political fiction, Morrison's novels continue to be concerned with the retrieval and archaeology of black experience and history, particularly that of black women. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1993, the first African-American writer to be so honoured; her Nobel Prize Speech was published in 1994. Recent critical work includes Race-ing Justice, Engendering Power (1993) and Playing in the Dark (1993). See also ethnicity.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Edgar Mittelholzer Biography to Mr Norris Changes Trains