Toni Morrison's first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), was acclaimed as the work of an important talent, written—as John Leonard said in The New York Times—in a prose "so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry."
Sula has the same power, the same beauty.
At its center—a friendship between two women, a friendship whose intensity first sustains, then injures. Sula and Nel—both black, both smart, both poor, raised in a small Ohio town—meet when they are twelve, wishbone thin and dreaming of princes.
Through their girlhood years they share everything—perceptions, judgments, yearnings, secrets, even crime—until Sula gets out, out of the Bottom, the hilltop neighborhood where beneath the sporting life of the men hanging around the place in headrags and soft felt hats there hides a fierce resentment at failed crops, lost jobs, thieving insurance men, bug-ridden flour...at the invisible line that cannot be overstepped.
Sula leaps it and roams the cities of America for ten years. Then she returns to the town, to her friend. But Nel is a wife now, settled with her man and her three children. She belongs. She accommodates to the Bottom, where you avoid the hand of God by getting in it, by staying upright, helping out at church suppers, asking after folks—where you deal with evil by surviving it.
Not Sula. As willing to feel pain as to give pain, she can never accommodate. Nel can't understand her any more, and the others never did. Sula scares them. Mention her now, and they recall that she put her grandma in an old folks' home (the old lady who let a train take her leg for the insurance)...that a child drowned in the river years ago...that there was a plague of robins when she first returned...
In clear, dark, resonant language, Toni Morrison brilliantly evokes not only a bond between two lives, but the harsh, loveless, ultimately mad world in which that bond is destroyed, the world of the Bottom and its people, through forty years, up to the time of their bewildered realization that even more than they feared Sula, their pariah, they needed her.
WINNER 1993 - Nobel Prize
One of the most celebrated writers of our time, Toni Morrison has become a distinctive literary voice in the 20th Century, and her works have become essential reading in the body of contemporary American fiction.
Toni Morrison was appointed Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University in the Spring of 1989.
Ms. Morrison has degrees from Howard and Cornell Universities. Among the universities where she has held teaching posts are Yale, Bard College and Rutgers. The New York State Board of Regents appointed her to the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities at the State University of New York at Albany in 1984, a post she held until 1989. In 1988 she was the Obert C. Tanner Lecturer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Professor at Syracuse University. In 1990 she delivered the Clark lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Massey Lectures at Harvard University.
Her six major novels, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, and Jazz, have received extensive critical acclaim. She received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977 for Song of Solomon and the 1988 Pulitzer prize for Beloved. Both novels were chosen as the main selections for the Book-of-the-Month Club, in 1977 and 1987 respectively. Her books of essays include Playing in the Dark, and her edited collection Race-ing Justice, En-Gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality.
Her first play, Dreaming Emmett, was commissioned by the New York State Writers Institute of the State University of New York (1985). Meeting with favorable reviews, it drew audiences throughout New York and the entire Tri-State area.
Honey and Rue, commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Kathleen Battle, with lyrics by Toni Morrison and music by Andre Previn, premiered in January 1992.
Ms. Morrison has received honorary degrees from Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Sarah Lawrence, Oberlin, Dartmouth, Yale, Georgetown, Columbia, Brown, the University of Michigan, and Universite Paris 7-Denis Diderot. She was also the first recipient of the Washington College Literary Award in 1987 and was New York State Governor's Arts Awardee in 1986.
Other prestigious awards include: the Modern Language Association of America Commonwealth Award in Literature, 1989; Sara Lee Corporation Front Runner Award in Arts, 1989; Anisfield Wolf Book Award in Race Relations, 1988; the Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature in 1978; and the Distinguished Writer Award of 1978 from the American Academy of Art and Letters.
She was a senior editor at Random House for twenty years.
Toni Morrison is a founding member of the Academie Universelle Des Cultures (at the Louvre, Paris), a Trustee of the New York Public Library, a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a member of the Author's Guild where she served on the Guild Council and as Foundation Treasurer. She served on the National Council of The Arts for six years and is a member of the Africa Watch and Helsinki Watch Committees on Human Rights.
In 1993 Ms. Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.