The legacy of Toni Morrison, who died this week at the age of 88, seems nearly impossible to summarize. The 1993 Nobel laureate for literature, she was the author of 11 novels, one of which won a Pulitzer Prize, as well as numerous works of nonfiction. As an editor, she published and promoted the work of a generation of black writers—which is to say nothing of the artists she continues to inspire, including other cultural giants such as Oprah and Beyoncé.
For all this legendary status, however, a recent documentary captures Morrison’s life in intimate, personal terms. And the strength of her work is deeply rooted in its humanity—in black characters whose internal struggles and strengths are fully realized and compassionately written. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, challenged the oppression of white beauty standards. And her last, God Help the Child, celebrated how people can overcome painful histories to find fulfillment.
Each week in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas. Check out past issues here.
Know other book lovers who might like this guide? Forward them this email.
What We’re Reading
A writer of rare compassion and kaleidoscopic vision
“Both despite and because of the specificity of their settings, her characters evince fears and desires and pain that then consume the reader. Morrison’s world extends far beyond her pages; it embeds itself in those who witness it.”