Dear Toni Morrison. I’m gonna skip the formalities and just call you Aunt Toni, if that’s alright.
Please don’t be offended by my familiarity. In my head, that’s who you are. And you’ve been there for me for years, offering sage words that I may not have always understood, even though they’ve resonated in my soul.
I remember the first time I read one of your books. It was my freshman year of college – growing up in Trinidad, my exposure to American literature was quite limited until I left the island. It was all Shakespeare, Chaucer, Thomas Hardy and Caribbean authors like V.S Naipaul, Sam Selvon and Olive Senior for me, until I migrated to Miami and was plunged headfirst into the world of American wordsmiths.
Your writing lingered with me in a way that not many authors did.
The first time I read Song of Solomon, I read it carefully, keeping my eyes open for metaphors and trying to analyze your words rather than enjoy them. That’s the nature of college literature classes, at least in my experience. You read and read and read, but what stays with you afterward? Often I’ll remember an essay I wrote about a book, but not the book itself. But that has never been the case with your books, not for me. Your characters have stayed with me, and spoke to me. In some cases they’ve told me about myself. Or warned me against my dealings with others. Song of Solomon. Sula. The Bluest Eye. Beloved. Your novels lit a torch inside me, to be a published author myself some day. And when I finally had the opportunity to see you speak, I jumped at the chance. Your words were spoken to a standing room only crowd at the University of Miami that day, but they went straight to my heart.
There’s an oft-repeated quote of yours: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
I’m working on it, Aunt Toni! I’m finally ready.
My first book won’t be fictional, or particularly literary. It’s going to be culled from the topics I explore on my blog, and I’ll be honest, I haven’t figured it all out yet. All I know is that I want it to be meaningful. I want it to be cherished and handed down from mother to daughter. It won’t be Song of Solomon or Beloved, not by a longshot! But because of those books I know the feelings I want my eventual book to evoke. I want to inspire. I want to uplift. Your writing has made me aspire to greatness, and I am so grateful for that.
Even though my career path has led me away from the world of fiction and literature, I know that someday I’ll be back. Someday I will write that novel that lies deep within my heart. And when I do, your words will be there to guide and inspire me every step of the way. As you’ve done for so many here, and around the world. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done.
I hope your 80th birthday is amazing and full of love and fabulous gifts!
With love and admiration,