The stories that shaped Toni Morrison

The stories that shaped Toni Morrison

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The Nobel Prize-winner, who has died at the age of 88, grew up with grizzly tales of the plight of black people in the US. In conversation with Razia Iqbal at the Hay Festival in 2014, she described how these stories shaped her as a writer.

Toni Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio in 1931, the second of four children in a working-class family. Storytelling was part of family life. “As a child I had to retell those stories to other adults,” she said. These tales “were pretty much horror stories about life as an African-American. They were powerful and highly metaphorical but that’s really what was at the bottom of it.”

Morrison’s first novel The Bluest Eye appeared in 1970, and in a long career that has produced such works as Beloved, Song of Solomon and Tar Baby, she consistently chronicled and investigated the African-American experience. She received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 – the first African-American woman to do so.

In this interview, she told Razia Iqbal that as a young writer she felt literature – even ‘black literature’ –was always addressed to a white audience. “And I was determined not to do that,” she said.

Toni Morrison has died, at the age of 88. Read her obituary on BBC News here.

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