A Letter From the Editors on Toni Morrison
As we mourn the loss of a literary legend, we also celebrate her life and the gifts she left us
To our ZORA readers,
After last weekend’s devastating news cycle in which more than 30 people lost their lives at the hands of White supremacists, we certainly did not expect that we would be writing this letter to you about the sudden death of Toni Morrison. The timing seems divinely cruel that we would also find ourselves mourning the loss of a woman who taught us so much about the fullness of our lives here on this earth in spite of racism, xenophobia, and pure hatred.
ZORA senior editor Morgan Jerkins remembers listening to Morrison speak at Princeton in the fall of 2015. The icon told a packed crowd that she was more interested in the discourse surrounding goodness rather than evil. Evil, to paraphrase, was boring.
There are not enough words to describe her impact, because that amount of influence collapses into one universe. And that universe — her universe — was Black. Black, full, rich, and good without White people leaning over our shoulders. That universe was full of characters like Pilate and Sula and replete with landscapes like Cincinnati and New York City. Morrison created a literary paradise with the jazz of the words she strung together.
Because of Morrison’s invaluable contribution to the literary canon, the ZORA team has devoted the entire publishing day to her with several pieces in tribute, including an essay about her ability to show triumph after intergenerational trauma, a 1997 commencement address she delivered at Barnard College that still resonates today, and an essay by author Tina McElroy Ansa, one of the many writers Morrison inspired.
We hope you enjoy it. We also hope you take the time you need to absorb this tremendous loss. And finally, we hope you realize that Morrison is never gone. She has passed on to the spiritual realm but her words are still here on Earth. She has written forever and her spirit will exist in life and letters for time immemorial.
The ZORA editors