#ThrowbackThursday: Words of Wisdom from Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison wearing hat, sitting and gesturing with her hands
Author Toni Morrison being awarded the 2011 National Book Festival's Creative Achievement Award. Photo by Kristina Nixon/Library of Congress

In 2014, one of our writers had the privilege of speaking with Toni Morrison, author of 11 novels and winner of such esteemed awards as the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize in Literature. It has been nearly five years since Morrison died and 10 years since that interview, but her words of wisdom, like her novels, are timeless. Here, we offer an excerpt in which she reflected on the start of her career and approaching writing as a reader. 

"Writing for me is thinking, and it’s also a way to position myself in the world, particularly when I don’t like what’s going on. It’s extremely important to me. [Confidence] came with time. I knew I always was compelled to do it, but I didn’t know how essential it was to me.

I wrote the first book because I wanted to read it. I thought that kind of book, with that subject—those most vulnerable, most undescribed, not taken seriously little Black girls—had never existed seriously in literature. No one had ever written about them except as props. Since I couldn’t find a book that did that, I thought, 'Well, I’ll write it and then I’ll read it.' It was really the reading impulse that got me into the writing thing."

Continue reading our conversation with Toni Morrison here