"it seems to me that the best art is political art, you ought to be able to make it unquestionably political and irrevocably beautiful art the same time."
She was born Chloe Anthony Woolford during the Depression in the Lorain, Ohio, a steel town. Her father worked at a steel mill and other available jobs, while her mother maintained the house for her husband and four children.
The second oldest child, Morrison received her bachelor's from Howard University in 1953 and her master's from Cornell University in 1955. She has taught English and creative writing at Texas Southern University, Howard University, Yale University, the State University of New York-Purchase, and Princeton University.
While teaching at Howard University, she married and had two sons. But after spending years in a disappointing marriage, Morrison divorced her Jamaican husband, keeping his surname and the manuscripts she had written and relocated to Syracuse, New York.
Morrison's new environment brought her a job as an editor at a Random House, where she helped several noted black women writers to gain publication, including Angela Davis, Toni Cada Bambara, and Gayl Jones.
Morrison described her writing in this way:
"there are things that I try to incorporate into my fiction that are directly and deliberately related to what I regard as the major characteristics of black art ... One of which is the ability to be both print and oral literature ... [Black Literature] should try deliberately to make you stand up and make you feel something profoundly in the same way that a black preacher requires his congregation to speak, to join him ... to weep and to cry and to acceed to change and to modify..."
Her novels include:
- The Bluest Eye
- Songs of Solomon, winner of a National Book Credits Award
- Tar Baby
- Beloved, winner of a Pulitzer Prize
- Race-ing Justice, En-Gendering power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas
- The Constructing of Social Reality
In 1993, Morrison became the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature, an award that honored the body of her writing.
"Recitatif" was originally published in Confirmation: an Anthology of African-American Women edited by Amiri and Amini Baraka. The story looks at to women - one black and one white - who for over 20 years have shared intersecting lives as well as guilt about childhood experience.
Read it here