The New Press Remembers Toni Morrison

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

February 18, 1931August 5, 2019

The New Press is deeply saddened to note the passing of Toni Morrison, the acclaimed novelist whose impact on literature cannot be overstated. To read her novels—or, even better, to listen to Morrison reading her own fiction in her marvelous, sonorous voice—is an experience like no other. The critic John Leonard described her first novel, The Bluest Eye, as “history, sociology, folklore, nightmare and music.” Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Jefferson Lecture, Toni Morrison has left an indelible mark not only on her readers but on literature itself.

When Morrison received the Nobel Prize, the Swedish Academy described her novels as “characterized by visionary force and poetic import” through which she “gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” Margalit Fox added in Morrison’s New York Times obituary that she wrote in “a style resembling that of no other writer in English. Her prose, often luminous and incantatory, rings with the cadences of black oral tradition. Her plots are dreamlike and nonlinear, spooling backward and forward in time as though characters bring the entire weight of history to bear on their every act.”

As Morrison herself told critic Hilton Als, “being a black woman writer is not a shallow place but a rich place to write from. It doesn’t limit my imagination; it expands it. It’s richer than being a white male writer because I know more and I’ve experienced more.”

We are proud to have celebrated Ms. Morrison’s remarkable achievements in 2014 when she, with Bob Bernstein, received a New Press Social Justice Award and was honored for her “steadfast belief in the power of the pen to bring about social change.” We share her loss with her family, friends, and colleagues and with the many readers all over the world who loved her books. Her books and her characters—among them Claudia, Macon Dead III, known as Milkman, Pecola, and Sethe—will live forever.

Read the obituary in the New York Times.