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11 Toni Morrison Quotes to Get You Through the Day


by Amber J. Phillips


Literary goddess Toni Morrison will released her 11th novel in 2015. God Help the Child “is a searing tale about the way childhood trauma shapes and misshapes the life of the adult.” Unlike her previous offerings, this novel is set in the present rather than the past. The story centers on Bride, “whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love.”

Whether you need words to describe sisterhood, love, or even the intergenerational effects of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on the psychological health of Black folks, there is a Toni Morrison quote for that! Hopefully, these 11 powerful quotes from Mother Morrison will hold you over and help you get through.

1. On righteous indignation…

“Anger is better. There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth. It is a lovely surging.” —The Bluest Eye

2. On gentrification...

“In that place, where they tore the nightshade and blackberry patches from their roots to make room for the Medallion City Course, there was once a neighborhood. It stood in the hills above the valley town of Medallion and spread all the way to the river. It is called the suburbs now, but when black people lived there it was called the Bottom.” —Sula

3. On letting go and dreaming big...

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” —Song of Solomon

4. On the struggle of being a twenty-something...

“It was a silly age, twenty-five; too old for teenaged dreaming, too young for settling down. Every corner was a possibility and a dead end.” —Tar Baby

5. On friendships based on mutual love and respect…

“She's 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. It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” —Beloved


6. On navigating bright lights and the big city...

“Hospitality is gold in this City; you have to be clever to figure out how to be welcoming and defensive at the same time. When to love something and when to quit. If you don’t know how, you can end up out of control or controlled by some outside things like that hard case last winter.” —Jazz

7. On the thin line between love and hate...

“Like friendship, hatred needed more than physical intimacy; it wanted creativity and hard work to sustain itself.” —Love

8. On keeping the faith…

“Shallow believers prefer a shallow God.” —A Mercy

9. On the brilliant vulnerability of Black Girls…

“‘Come on, girl. Don't cry,’ whispered Frank. ‘Why not? I can be miserable if I want to. You don't need to try and make it go away. It shouldn't go away. It's just as sad as it ought to be and I'm not going to hide from what's true just because it hurts.’ Cee wasn't sobbing anymore, but the tears were still running down her cheeks.” —Home

10. On love…

“Let me tell you about love, that silly word you believe is about whether you like somebody or whether somebody likes you or whether you can put up with somebody in order to get something or someplace you want or you believe it has to do with how your body responds to another body like robins or bison or maybe you believe love is how forces of nature or luck is benign to you in particular not maiming or killing you but if so doing it for your own good. Love is none of that. There is nothing in nature like it. Not in robins or bison or in the banging tails of your hunting dogs and not in blossoms or suckling foal. Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God.” —Paradise

11. On parenting…

“What you do to children matter. And they might never forget.” —God Help the Child

What are some of your favorite Toni Morrison quotes? Let us know!

Photo: Damon Winter / The New York Times

Amber J. Phillips, a regular contributor at For Harriet. She is also a social justice organizer who works to advance the rights of people of color, women, young people, and low-income communities. She is a member of the Echoing Ida writing collective, a project of Forward Together. Follow her on Twitter: @AmberJPhillips


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