Literary Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison graced the Colbert Report with her presence last week. There is always something to be said about writers and wit and Toni Morrison absolutely owns her ability to swap snark with comedian Stephen Colbert. When asked if she felt worthy of standing among the ranks as those as great as Ernest Hemmingway and Doris Lessing, Toni Morrison offered a both humble and witty response in that she felt her books are worthy.
It is something many writers in both poetry and prose consider. It is their words that make the mark on the hearts of men and women, not themselves. Writers are in many ways separate while simultaneously bound to the stories we offer to the world.
Toni Morrison did more than swap wit with Stephen Colbert, she also did what some modern writers fear to do publicly. She spoke on a hot button issue. It takes guts to write the truth in fiction, it takes even more to speak it on real issues without the veil of the page to hide behind.
Toni Morrison made it clear that labels and archetypes belong on the page not in real life. When asked if a white male could understand the struggle of an African-American woman, Toni Morrison shook the crowd yet again with her response. Toni clearly stated that she did not want to be considered an African-American woman, she wants to be known as an American writer, if she must be labeled at all.
Toni Morrison’s books are definitely heaped with the stories of the lives of black characters. From a young black girl’s desire to attain the beauty she feels can only be found in blue eyes and crowned with blonde hair, to the struggle of an American slave, there is little doubt that Toni Morrison’s stories are told to give voice to the particular struggle of African-Americans, but is it through this interview that we see that Toni Morrison’s real goal is to remove the labels and show that it is not as much about race - which she makes very clear is a societal construct - as it is about discovering your truth and strength.
I look forward to reading Toni Morrison’s books and as a writer, I feel a strong desire to live up to that label that she has set to a new standard.