This past week I wanted to highlight National Underwear Day and National Shapewear Day. But in light of our dearly departed Toni Morrison, I thought it would better to spotlight her legacy on a personal note.
My first contact with Toni Morison was through the book Beloved. Prior to this book, I had always been captivated by authors such as Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe. The nuanced way they shed their layers and retold their stories always pulled me in and honestly started my addiction to reading. But they were white men. As entertaining as their stories and poems were, the lives they led were elusive and not a telling of any footpath I had traversed.
Beloved brought a whole new dimension to my understanding of writing and telling a story. Toni Morison’sSethe and her story caused a dull ache in my heart. The ache was a sweet one, for I had found an author who could encapsulate the pain black women feel often but are rarely able to give license to. I went to the library and quickly read all that was to offer from this beautiful author. I devoured The Bluest Eye & Sula. I paced myself through A Mercy, Tar Baby & Home so to leave no sentence unread–a minimum of three times. It was the book Love that redefined my writing spirit recently. I read this book in my 33rd year on this planet. The 2 main characters are childhood friends that love like sisters. Complete with the irrational jealousy and theatrics of sharing a man. The story arcs and curves as it tells the separate tales of these women who survived all the tumults that childhood, relationships and the curious, often debilitating nature of men. Toni, a master of her craft, breathes life into these characters in a life-altering way for me. The book ends with the sisters reuniting. Their last moments grasping at the pure love that was stolen from them. And as I write this my heart soars, my eyes dampen.
The impact that Toni Morison left on authors is magnificent. She taught me how to develop my characters and to write with conviction. Toni taught me that it is okay to write about the ugly stuff. That too often your own work–your own art–is the salve that helps you to heal. Toni Morison offered a world and a constant façade of assurance in herself, in her blackness and in her womanhood. She was a champion and a mentor. I plan to reread her works, thankful that she left us with so many pieces of herself. I also plan to let the flame she sparked grow inside of me when I read the words of comfort and love that Paul D spoke to Sethe, that she was ‘her own best thing’. I will write in a way that celebrates my strengths, a way that transforms my weaknesses and allows me to celebrate being my own best thing. This is a phrase I hope all girls and women take to heart on this day; That they are their own best thing.