Toni Morrison Quotes

The past is interesting to me because it's been dumbed down or flattened out or academically nitpicked so you can't get any life out of it you just get data.

American means white and Africanist people struggle to make the term applicable to themselves with ethnicity and hyphen after hyphen after hyphen.

I had only one desire: to dismember it. To see of what it was made to discover the dearness to find the beauty the desirability that had escaped me but apparently only me.

Language can never 'pin down' slavery genocide war. Nor should it yearn for the arrogance to be able to do so. Its force its felicity is in its reach toward the ineffable.

Say make me remake me. You are free to do it and I am free to let you because look look. Look where your hands are. Now.

I get angry about things then go on and work.

Anger ... it's a paralyzing emotion ... you can't get anything done.

I welcomed the circling sharks but they avoided me as if knowing I preferred their teeth to the chains around my neck my waist my ankles

I always looked upon the acts of racist exclusion or insult as pitiable for the other person. I never absorbed that. I always thought that there was something deficient about such people.

The peace I am thinking of is the dance of an open mind when it engages another equally open one.

I always looked upon the acts of racist exclusion or insult as pitiable from the other person. I never absorbed that. I always thought that there was something deficient about such people.

Our ancestors are an ever widening circle of hope.

If happiness is anticipation with certainty we were happy.

Love is never any better than the lover.

Anything dead coming back to life hurts.

Don't beg anybody for anything especially love.

Who's Got Game? The Ant or the Grasshopper? The Lion or the Mouse? Poppy or the Snake?

Women's rights is not only an abstraction a cause; it is also a personal affair. It is not only about us; it is also about me and you. Just the two of us.

Access to knowledge is the superb the supreme act of truly great civilizations. Of all the institutions that purport to do this free libraries stand virtually alone in accomplishing this mission.

Listen up. Let me tell you something. A man ain't a goddamn ax. Chopping hacking busting every goddamn minute of the day. Things get to him. Things he can't chop down because they're inside.

No matter what all your teeth and wet fingers anticipated there was no accounting for the way that simple joy could shake you.

I'm not entangled in shaping my work according to other people's views of how I should have done it.

Misery don't call ahead. That's why you have to stay awake - otherwise it just walks on in your door.

If writing is thinking and discovery and selection and order and meaning it is also awe and reverence and mystery and magic.

Black literature is taught as sociology as tolerance not as a serious rigorous art form.

There is no civilization that did not begin with art Whether it was drawing a line in the sand painting a cave or dancing.

Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it summon it from even the most tragic of circumstances.

Like any artist without an art form she became dangerous.

In times of dread artists must never choose to remain silent.

Everything I've ever done in the writing world has been to expand articulation rather than to close it.

From my point of view which is that of a storyteller I see your life as something artful waiting just waiting and ready for you to make it art.

Your life is already artful-waiting just waiting for you to make it art.

At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough.

I think some aspects of writing can be taught. Obviously you can't teach vision or talent. But you can help with comfort.

I merged those two words black and feminist because I was surrounded by black women who were very tough and and who always assumed they had to work and rear children and manage homes.

I'm interested in the way in which the past affects the present and I think that if we understand a good deal more about history we automatically understand a great more about contemporary life.

Pain. I seem to have an affection a kind of sweettooth for it. Bolts of lightning little rivulets of thunder. And I the eye of the storm.

Political doesn't necessarily mean you have an agenda.

What I'm doing ain't about hating White people. It's about loving us.

Books ARE a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.

The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar is the test of their power.

Certain seeds it will not nurture certain fruit it will not bear and when the land kills of its own volition we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live

The Administration of the United States is such dread I almost feel paralyzed.

...the change was adjustment without improvement.

The vitality of language lies in its ability to limn the actual imagined and possible lives of its speakers readers writers.

Being able to laugh got me through.

He said 'Always. Always.

Home is memory home is your history home is where you work. Some people want to abandon it and become truly local. But the questions are all there.

The pieces I am she gather them and gave them back to me in all the right order.

She is a friend of my mind. She gather me man. The pieces I am she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.

I am a moralist. I worry.

Lonely was much better than alone.

It was becoming a habit-this concentration on things behind him. Almost as though there were no future to be had. *Milkman*

Lay my head on the railroad line. Train come along; pacify my mind.

All paradises all utopias are designed by who is not there by the people who are not allowed in.

Some Native American writers enjoy being called Native American writers.

Adults older girls shops magazines newspapers window signsÂ?all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed yellow-haired pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured

If you surrendered to the air you could ride it.

All important things are hard.

Perhaps that's what all human relationships boiled down to: Would you save my life? or would you take it?

I type in one place but I write all over the house.

I'm always annoyed about why black people have to bear the brunt of everybody else's contempt. If we are not totally understanding and smiling suddenly we're demons.

Black women are the touchstone by which all that is human can be measured.

All art is knowing when to stop.

We read about how Ajax and Achilles will die for each other but very little about the friendship of women.

It's bliss when you give up all that stuff that separates you from other human beings. It's hard but you break down all that stuff.

A dead hydrangea is as intricate and lovely as one in bloom. Bleak sky is as seductive as sunshine miniature orange trees without blossom or fruit are not defective; they are that.

I wanted to separate color from race. Distinguishing color - light black in-between - as the marker for race is really an error.

Black people have always been used as a buffer in this country between powers to prevent class war.

For a long time I was convinced that the conflict between Jewish people and black people in this country was a media event.

Anything I have ever learned of any consequence I have learned from Black people. I have never been bored by any Black person ever ...

Black people are victims of an enormous amount of violence. None of those things can take place without the complicity of the people who run the schools and the city.

There is an incredible amount of magic and feistiness in black men that nobody has been able to wipe out. But everybody has tried.

I don't think anybody cares about unwed mothers unless they're black or poor. The question is not morality the question is money. That's what we're upset about.

Birth life and deathâ?? each took place on the hidden side of a leaf.

It would be ten years before they saw each other again and their meeting would be thick with birds.

There is nothing of any consequence in education in the economy in city planning in social policy that does not concern black people.

Black women have always been friends. I mean if you didn't have each other you had nothing.

A little black girl yearns for the blue eyes of a little white girl and the horror at the heart of her yearning is exceeded only by the evil of fulfillment

Black boys became criminalized. I was in constant dread for their lives because they were targets everywhere. They still are.

if they put an iron circle around your neck I will bite it away

The human body is robust. It can gather strength when it's in mortal danger.

A bestseller is a book that non-book buyers buy

I am in the position of judging people by the best they've ever done rather than the worst.

The best part of all the absolutely most delicious part is finishing it and then doing it over I rewrite a lot over and over again so that it looks like I never did.

The best hiding place was love. Thus the conversion from pristine sadism to fabricated hatred to fraudulent love.

My world did not shrink because I was a black female writer. It just got bigger.

The seeds of destruction lie in the definition of "chosen-ness" and can easily blossom into bigotry. It's not inevitable but it needs constant care to avoid.

Like Guitar in Son of Solomon and Son in Tar Baby he believed that harmony could never exist between the races.

Unpersecuted unjailed unharrassed writers are trouble for the ignorant bully the sly racist and the predators feeding off the world's resources.

I don't think a female running a house is a problem a broken family. It's perceived as one because of the notion that a head is a man.

the hopelessness that comes from knowing too little and feeling too much (so brittle so dry he is in danger of the reverse: feeling nothing and knowing everything)

Hate does that. Burns off everything but itself so whatever your grievance is your face looks just like your enemy's.

My first-born. All I can remember of her is how she loved the burned bottom of bread. Can you beat that?Eight children and that's all I remember.

The unflattering reviews are painful for short periods of time; the badly written ones are deeply deeply insulting. That reviewer took no time to really read the book.

Evil is just sort of ultimately boring. The good thing is just complicated. It's more provocative to me and more stimulating to me.

[Obama is ] creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom . . . [He is] the man for this time.

She was a tall woman with unfashionable hips and a long chestnut braid singing down her back.

Girl I got my mind. And what goes on in it. Which is to say I got lonely is mine.

Now they will rest before shouldering the endless work they were created to do down here in paradise.

More than fear of loving bears or birds bigger than cows I fear pathless nights. How I wonder can I find you in the dark?

You your own best thing Sethe. You are.

Laughter is more serious than tears.

New York is the last true city.

You are your best thing

Unless carefree mother love was a killer.

Somebody has to take responsibility for being a leader.

I dream a dream that dreams back at me

Evil is so seductive. It needs to grind you up and make you its slave.

The body is ready to have babies. Nature wants it done then when the body can handle it not after 40 when the income can handle it.

When you gone to get married? You need to have some babies. It'll settle you.' 'I don't want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.

I write the way women have babies. You don't know it's going to be like that. If you did there's no way you would go through with it.

They encouraged you to put some of your weight in their hands and soon as you felt how light and lovely it was they studied your scars and tribulations...

It's a bad word 'belong.' Especially when you put it with somebody you love ... You can't own a human being.

Schools must stop being holding pens to keep energetic young people off the job market and off the streets. We stretch puberty out a long long time.

Narrative is radical creating us at the very moment it is being created.

Anger is better. There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth. It is a lovely surging.

Being good to somebody is just like being mean to somebody. Risky. You don't get nothing for it.

Beloved you are my sister you are my daughter you are my face; you are me.

Beginning Beloved with numerals rather than spelled out numbers it was my intention to give the house an identity separate from the street or even the city.

Clever but schoolteacher beat him anyway to show him that definitions belonged to the definers - not the defined.

Definitions belong to the definers not the defined.

Don't tell us what to believe what to fear. Show us belief's wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear's caul.

Shallow believers prefer a shallow God.

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.

Maybe [I care about language] because I'm an editor maybe because I'm picky but it's all we got don't shrink it. Don't dumb it out make it little.

The best art is political and you ought to be able to make it unquestionably political and irrevocably beautiful at the same time.

If you can't count they can cheat you. If you can't read they can beat you.

Beauty was not simply something to behold; it was something one could do.

A lot of black people believe that Jews in this country have become white. They behave like white people rather than Jewish people.

If we had no language we'd have nothing.

Isolation you know carries the seeds of its own destruction because as times change other things seep in.

I don't do the things other people call "play.

I couldn't bear to have people mispronounce my name. But the person I was was this person who was called Chloe.

If you're going to hold someone down you're going to have to hold on by the other end of the chain. You are confined by your own repression.

You looked at me then like you knew me and I thought it really was Eden and I couldn't take your eyes in because I was loving the hoof marks on your cheeks.

You need a whole community to raise a child. I have raised two children alone.

My children are delightful people whom I would love even if they weren't my children.

I sang "O Holy Night" in a school choir. My mother came and listened to me and complimented me. So that was the high point. I cannot sing a note.

Freedom is choosing your responsibility. It's not having no responsibilitie s; it's choosing the ones you want.

I want to discourage you from choosing anything or making any decision simply because it is safe. Things of value seldom are

To get to a place where you could love anything you chose--not to need permission for desire--well now _that_ was freedom.

It was a fine cry - loud and long - but it had no bottom and it had no top just circles and circles of sorrow.

When they fall in love with a city it is for forever and it is like forever.

There is no time for despair no place for self-pity no need for silence no room for fear. We speak we write we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want it?

I don't work. I keep telling people I'm unemployed. And I don't wash dishes and I don't wash clothes and I don't clean my house. Somebody else does that.

I have the wonderful pleasure of finishing the book and closing it. And I don't read them later.

The formula for creative writing in high school or college is write what you know.

Misery colored by the greens and blues in my mother's voice took away all the grief out of the words and left me with a conviction that pain was not only endurable it was sweet.

We're all surrounded by what I call faux language fake language of commerce of news media.

I can't explain inspiration. A writer is either compelled to write or not. And if I waited for inspiration I wouldn't really be a writer.

There is honey in this land sweeter than any I know of and I have cut cane in places where the dirt itself tasted like sugar so that's saying a heap.

You looking good." "Devil's confusion. He lets me look good long as I feel bad.

You rely on a sentence to say more than the denotation and the connotation; you revel in the smoke that the words send up.

When a man angers you he conquers you.

Nobody loved her and she wouldn't have liked it if they had she considered love a serious disability.

There is no such thing as race. None. There is just a human race -- scientifically anthropologically. Racism is a construct a social construct... it has a social function racism.

In becoming an American from Europe what one has in common with that other immigrant is contempt for me-it's nothing else but color.

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

And I am all the things I have ever loved: scuppernong wine cool baptisms in silent water dream books and number playing.

A coward with a gun is the most dangerous person in the world

The box had done what Sweet Home had not what working like an ass and living like a dog had not: drove him crazy so he would not lose his mind.

Was it hard? I hope she didn't die hard.' Sethe shook her head. 'Soft as cream. Being alive was the hard part.

If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet then you must write it.

What's interesting about writing is the invention the creative thing. Writing about myself is a yawn.

Like friendship hatred needed more than physical intimacy; it wanted creativity and hard work to sustain itself

It was my father who could do no wrong. So I didn't think of it as oh look my father's a violent man.

To be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing.

For me Art is the restoration of order. It may discuss all sort of terrible things but there must be satisfaction at the end. A little bit of hunger but also satisfaction.

My theory is that the world is a difficult place to live in and distraction is the name of the game.

Writing is really a way of thinking--not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate unresolved mysterious problematic or just sweet.

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

I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry and I see summer - its dust and lowering skies.

Sifting daylight dissolves the memory turns it into dust motes floating in light.

A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves - a special kind of double.

You are my shaper and my world as well. It is done. No need to choose.

Don't ever think I fell for you or fell over you. I didn't fall in love I rose in it.

As a writer reading I came to realize the obvious: the subject of the dream is the dreamer.

But to find out the truth about how dreams die one should never take the word of the dreamer.

A dream is just a nightmare with lipstick.

As you enter positions of trust and power dream a little before you think.

Sometimes the names were humiliating deliberately so. Somebody would pick out your flaw. If you were little they would call you Shorty. And if you were angry they would call you the Devil.

Everything depends on knowing how much " she said and "Good is knowing when to stop.

Deep deep trouble. Can't rival the dead for love. Lose every time.

Love is divine only and difficult always.

When you know your name you should hang on to it for unless it is noted down and remembered it will die when you do.

Make a difference does it? You stay the night here snake get you.

What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not?

Make a difference about something other than yourselves.

From my point of view your life is already a miracle of chance waiting for you to shape its destiny.

The concept of physical beauty as a virtue is one of the dumbest most pernicious and destructive ideas of the Western world and we should have nothing to do with it.

In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.

The screams of a hurt woman were indistinguishable from everyday traffic.

Everywhere everywhere children are the scorned people of the earth.

Sexist language racist language theistic language - all are typical of the policing languages of mastery and cannot do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.

Love just seems to make life not just livable but a gallant gallant event.

Intimacy is extremely important to me and I want it to be extremely important to the readers.

How exquisitely human was the wish for permanent happiness and how thin human imagination became trying to achieve it.

You marvel at the economy and this choice of words. How many ways can you describe the sky and the moon? After Sylvia Plath what can you say?

...when the little boy discovered at four the same thing Mr. Smith had learned earlier -- that only birds and planes could fly -- he lost all interest in himself.

The language must be careful and must appear effortless. It must not sweat. It must suggest and be provocative at the same time.

The function of freedom is to free someone else.

I wish I'd a knowed more people. I would of loved â??em all. If I'd a knowed more I would a loved more

In Ohio seasons are theatrical. Each one enters like a prima donna convinced its performance is the reason the world has people in it.

I always know the ending; that's where I start.

Passion is never enough; neither is skill.

The habit of getting up early which I had formed when the children were young now became my choice. I am not very bright or very witty or very inventive after the sun goes down.

you got two feet Sethe not four." he said and right then a forest sprang up between them; tactless and quiet.

All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.

Outside snow solidified itself into graceful forms. The peace of winter stars seemed permanent.

It is sheer good fortune to miss somebody long before they leave you.

If you want to fly you have to give up the things that weigh you down.

Wait wait wait wait. Don't try to write through it to force it. Many do but that won't work. Just wait it will come.

I feel like today we always glorify the young just-plucked-from-college writer. But it's much harder to start writing later in middle age struggling on a book around a full-time job and family.

I didn't fall in love I rose in it.

She learned the intricacy of loneliness: the horror of color the roar of soundlessness and the menace of familiar objects lying still.

We mistook violence for passion indolence for leisure and thought recklessness was freedom.

I don't think I knew any of my father's friends - male friends - by their real names. I remember them only by their nicknames.

She is a friend of mind. She gather me man. The pieces I am she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It's good you know when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.

Sometimes what I write on the page frightens me so I feel free when I write but I don't feel safe.

Movements toward freedom and the self-respect that comes from something other than what people think is their most important feature.

I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.

If a Negro got legs he ought to use them. Sit down too long somebody will figure out a way to tie them up.

Let your face speak what's in your heart.

You need intelligence and you need to look. You need a gaze a wide gaze penetrating and roving - thats what's useful for art.

So this is what insanity is. Not goofy behavior but watching a sudden change in the world you used to know.

Let your face speak what's in your heart. When my kids walk in the room my face says I'm glad to see them.

Whatever happens whether you get rich or stay poor ruin your health or live to old age you always end up back where you started: hungry for the one thing everybody loses - young loving.

You been gone too long Sula. Not too long but maybe too far.

A friend gathers all the pieces and gives them back in the right order.

Most of the really good literature I've read in my life was political meaning it was important - about something going on in the history of the world - or contemporary.

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

Much handled things are always soft(27).

When am I happy and when am I sad and what is the difference? What do I need to know to stay alive? What is true in the world?

The difference between that which is humane and that which is patriotic is a vital difference.

Can't nothing heal without pain you know.

Not knowing it was hard; knowing it was harder

Today is always here ' said Sethe. 'Tomorrow never.

He wants to put his story next to hers.

He leans over and takes her hand. With the other he touches her face. â??You your best thing Sethe. You are.' His holding fingers are holding hers. â??Me? Me?

Lonely ain't it? Yes but my lonely is mine. Now your lonely is somebody else's. Made by somebody else and handed to you. Ain't that something? A secondhand lonely.

I don't think one parent can raise a child. I don't think two parents can raise a child. You really need the whole village.

The isolation the separateness is always a part of any utopia.

I like marriage. The idea.

I would solve a lot of literary problems just thinking about a character in the subway where you can't do anything anyway.

If you can only be tall because someone else is on their knees then you have a serious problem. And white people have a very very serious problem.

I know that my books are worthy which is separate from me.

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

Literature it seems to me is wisdom.

Nelson Mandela is for me the single statesman in the world. The single statesman in that literal sense who is not solving all his problems with guns. It's truly unbelievable.

But her brain was not interested in the future. Loaded with the past and hungry for more it left her no room to imagine let alone plan for the next day.

If I'd a knowed more I would a loved more.

Something that is loved is never lost.

Which was what love was: unmotivated respect.

Liberation means you don't have to be silenced.

I don't wait to be struck by lightning and I don't need certain slants of light in order to be able to write.

When a child walks in the room your child or anybody else's child do your eyes light up? That's what they're looking for.

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

Grown don't mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger older but grown. In my heart it don't mean a thing.

Long before I was a success my parents made me feel like I could be one.

There in the center of that silence was not eternity but the death of time and a loneliness so profound the word itself had no meaning.

A son ain't what a woman say. A son is what a man do.

Sunk in the grass of an empty lot on a spring Saturday I split the stems of milkweed and thought about ants and peach pits and death and where the world went when I closed my eyes.

No gasp at a miracle that is truly miraculous because the magic lies in the fact that you knew it was there for you all along.

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

It's been mentioned or suggested that Paradise will not be well studied because it's about this unimportant intellectual topic which is religion.

You free. Nothing and nobody is obliged to save you but you.

Nowadays silence is looked on as odd and most of my race has forgotten the beauty of meaning much by saying little. Now tongues work all day by themselves with no help from the mind.

When there is pain there are no words. All pain is the same.

When I write I don't translate for white readers.... Dostoevski wrote for a Russian audience but we're able to read him. If I'm specific and I don't overexplain then anyone can overhear me.

I'm losing the definition now of politics. I sort of don't know what that is anymore. People say politically correct I don't know what that means. I know what they think they mean.

What I think the political correctness debate is really about is the power to be able to define. The definers want the power to name. And the defined are now taking that power away from them.

Racism will disappear when it's no longer profitable and no longer psychologically useful. And when that happens it'll be gone. But at the moment people make a lot of money off of it pro and con.

The enemy is not men. The enemy is the concept of patriarchy the concept of patriarchy as the way to run the world or do things.

It seems to me everything Shakespeare did was political.

I have a lot of respect for readers because I'm a reader. That's how I got into writing.

Nobody loves the head of a dandelion. Maybe because they are so many strong and soon.

Race is the least reliable information you can have about someone. It's real information but it tells you next to nothing.

He can't value you more than you value yourself.

Write about something you don't know. And don't be scared ever.

I think one of the reasons I'm so thrilled with writing is because it is an act of reading for me at the same time which is why my revisions are so sustained.

Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.

We never shape the world . . . the world shapes us.

And wouldn't you know he'd be a singing man.

A man ain't nothing but a man. But a son? Well now that's somebody

I sometimes lose interest in the characters and get much more interested in the trees and animals.

I want to feel what I feel. What's mine. Even if it's not happiness whatever that means. Because you're all you've got.

You have to be willing to think the unthinkable.

I thought the whole world was like Lorain.

Me and you we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.