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Random House senior editor Porscha Burke keeps a copy of the Toni Morrison-edited The Black Book — an expansive encyclopedia on the accomplishments of African-Americans — on her desk at work, not only as a memento of the author, but also to keep her aware of the path Morrison blazed for black women like her in the world. Unflinching and outspoken, Toni Morrison always spoke her truth without fear, especially when it came to racism, sexism and the American life, never caring to conform to the paradigms that her white male-dominated society tried to impress upon her.
After Morrison died this week at 88, people around the world, particularly black women, mourned the loss of the Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winner and praised her for opening a literary door into their world — and reflecting their pains and triumphs in her work. Finally, she gave me the freedom to be who God purposed me to be.
Morrison refused to write for a white audience, instead extrapolating from her own culture. In an interview, Morrison clearly remembered the reviewer who wondered when she was going to get "mature" about her writing and write about white people, the "real confrontation" in African American lives. Morrison gave women, especially black women, space to care about themselves in life and in literature, said Dana A. She centered the important of who we are even when others tried to question why she did that," she said. In a society where whiteness is perceived as normalcy, her loyalty to the beauty of who we are as a culture and the richness and fullness of that was just incredibly important and brave and I admire her for that.
Jones-DeWeever said for the longest her "hair goals" was to emulate Morrison's steely gray locks, and Burke said she was amazed that Morrison carried the same big purse that many black grandmothers are known for. It's deeply meaningful and not something to be hidden. Jesse J. Holland covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. Contact him at jholland ap.
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