"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.'
"This is the time for every artist in every genre to do what he or she does loudly and consistently. It doesn't matter to me what your position is. You've got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else than the best that you've got."
-- Toni Morrison, interviewed by O: The Oprah Magazine in 2003.
Toni Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio, and now lives in New Jersey. She is the most recent American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1993). She has also won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, among a host of other literary honors. The Toni Morrison Society, founded five months before Morrison won the Nobel, is designed to promote engagement with Morrison's work through programming, teaching initiatives, and study. Morrison's novels include Beloved, Sula, Jazz, Love, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Paradise, Tar Baby, and A Mercy. See also Morrison's extraordinary scrapbook-style anthology, now released in a 35th anniversary edition: The Black Book. Her most recent project is a play: a re-imagining of Othello that draws from the vantage of an African nurse mentioned in a single line of Shakespeare's play. Morrison, who is 80-years-old, will publish her next novel, Home, in 2012.
Hat tip to Arlene F. for pointing me to the first part of this quotation.
Image Credit: The Haunted Library