At 84 years old, literary legend Toni Morrison has no intention of putting down her pen just yet.
The New York Times Magazine put the Nobel Prize winning-author on the cover of this week’s issue and it ran a profile of her online. In the interview, Morrison shares her thoughts on diversity in literature, her new novel God Help The Child (due out April 21), and how writing protects her.
Morrison recalls wanting to fill a void in Black literature, which she felt wasn’t doing much to appeal to women in the community. However, she still found an interesting thread in the books that were available before she began her own illustrious writing career
“In so many earlier books by African-American writers, particularly the men, I felt that they were not writing to me. But what interested me was the African-American experience throughout whichever time I spoke of,” she told Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah of NYT magazine. “It was always about African-American culture and people — good, bad, indifferent, whatever — but that was, for me, the universe.”
Morrison’s writing reflects the fascination she had with the Black experience overall as she chooses to write beyond the static narrative of a single-character POV. In God Bless The Child, which addresses the issue of colorism among many other things, Morrison jumps around to write from the perspective of several different people. Readers will find though, that the story always seems to come back around to a character named Bride.
Blessed with ebony skin at birth, Bride had a very hard childhood because of the shabby treatment she received from her mother, Sweetness. This relationship is a great example of how a story can change based on the POV: where outsiders might view Sweetness’ behavior as cruel, she believes that she’s protecting her daughter Bride by preparing her to face how nasty people would be to her for having dark skin.
Many parents have a very different idea about how to protect their children from racism. Speaking of protection, Morrison shared that her writing has provided her not just a creative outlet, but also a shield of sorts.
“It’s a serious protection: emotionally, even intellectually, from the world,” said Morrison, who was recording the audio version of God Bless The Child when she spoke with NYT Magazine.
That shield and her creativity can come in handy when reporters keep calling, making pleasentries. It never takes long for Morrison to see through the interest to figure out what they really want to know.
“They are just calling to see when I’m going to die,” Morrison said with a laugh, adding that she finds a way to entertain herself when the buzzards come circling. “I’ll play it up a bit and say, ‘Oh, today my arms hurt, my chest is sore.’ Because, me? I’m not going anywhere soon.”