Toni Morrison Quotes: Her Most Memorable Sayings

Toni Morrison's death

Getty Images Toni Morrison's death

Toni Morrison, a beloved American writer and the first black woman to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, has died at the age of 88.

Alfred A. Knopf, Morrison’s publisher, announced to the media Tuesday that complications of pneumonia ended her life. Her family released this statement:

It is with profound sadness we share that, following a short illness, our adored mother and grandmother, Toni Morrison, passed away peacefully last night surrounded by family and friends. She was an extremely devoted mother, grandmother, and aunt who reveled in being with her family and friends. The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing. Although her passing represents a tremendous loss, we are grateful she had a long, well-lived life. While we would like to thank everyone who knew and loved her, personally or through her work, for their support at this difficult time, we ask for privacy as we mourn this loss to our family. We will share information in the near future about how we will celebrate Toni’s incredible life.

Toni Morrison’s Top 25 Most Memorable Sayings

1. “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

2. “You wanna fly, you got to give up the thing that weighs you down.”

3. “Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”

4. “You are your best thing.”

5. “A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.”

6. “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.”

7. “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”

8. “Make a difference about something other than yourselves.”

9. “Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. Language alone is meditation.”

10. “As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.”

11. “Somebody has to take responsibility for being a leader.”

12. “I get angry about things, then go on and work.”

13. “You need a whole community to raise a child. I have raised two children, alone.”

14. “Your life is already artful—waiting, just waiting, for you to make it art.”

15. “Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.”

16. “The function of freedom is to free someone else.”

17. “Don’t ever think I fell for you or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love; I rose in it.”

18. “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

19. “I think all good art is political. None of the best writing, the best thoughts have been anything other than that.”

20. “Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.”

21. “The presence of evil was something to be first recognized, then dealt with, survived, outwitted, triumphed over.”

22. “There is really nothing more to say-except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.”

23. “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.”

24. “Sweet, crazy conversations full of half sentences, daydreams and misunderstandings more thrilling than understanding could ever be.”

25. “Anger … it’s a paralyzing emotion … you can’t get anything done. People sort of think it’s an interesting, passionate, and igniting feeling – I don’t think it’s any of that – it’s helpless … it’s absence of control – I have no use for it whatsoever.”

A List of Toni Morrison’s Literary Work

Toni Morrison list of literary work

Nobel Prize winning author and honoree Toni Morrison speaks on stage during the Brooklyn Museum’s Sackler Center First Awards at the Brooklyn Museum on April 18, 2012

1. The Bluest Eye -1970

2. Sula -1973

3. Song of Solomon -1977

4. Tar Baby -1981

5. Beloved -1987

6. Playing in the Dark -1992

7. Jazz 1992

8. Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality -1992

9. Conversations with Toni Morrison -1994

10. Paradise -1997

11. Birth of a Nation’hood: Gaze, Script, and Spectacle in the O.J. Simpson Case -1997

Ms. Morrison also wrote over a dozen children’s books, and you can read all of her famous essays here.

Listen below to the lecture she gave upon receiving her Nobel Prize.

Toni Morrison Nobel Lecture (1993) "The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the…2011-08-04T14:18:55.000Z

Here is the transcript of the speech in its entirety.

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