Here are the most memorable Toni Morrison quotes to help inspire you in your everyday life.
Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison passed away at 88, leaving behind 11 novels, a multitude of accolades, and a career that shaped literary culture as we know it today. Morrison's life is truly an inspiration for all: After raising two children as a single mother, Morrison became a published author at 39 years old. She would go on to take the literary world by storm, becoming the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. She was also the first female African American editor at Random House and taught at various prestigious institutions, including Howard University, Yale University, Princeton University, and Bard College.
We can all learn from Morrison's life and career. More importantly, we can all learn from the wisdom she shared through her writing, interviews, and speeches. Here are some of her most memorable, and inspiring quotes to help with your career, relationships and, well, life.
“One day, alone in the kitchen with my father, I let drop a few whines about the job. I gave him details, examples of what troubled me, yet although he listened intently, I saw no sympathy in his eyes. ... Perhaps he understood that what I wanted was a solution to the job, not an escape from it. In any case, he put down his cup of coffee and said, 'Listen. You don't live there. You live here. With your people. Go to work. Get your money. And come on home.' That was what he said. This was what I heard:
1. Whatever the work is, do it well — not for the boss but for yourself.
2. You make the job; it doesn't make you.
3. Your real life is with us, your family.
4. You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.
“I have worked for all sorts of people since then, geniuses and morons, quick-witted and dull, bighearted and narrow. I've had many kinds of jobs, but since that conversation with my father I have never considered the level of labor to be the measure of myself, and I have never placed the security of a job above the value of home.” — The New Yorker, 2017
“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.'” — O, The Oprah Magazine, November 2003
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh-t that weighs you down.” — “Song of Solomon,” 1977
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” — Morrison's Nobel lecture, 1993
"You're turning over your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can't value you more than you value yourself." — “Song of Solomon,” 1977
"At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don't need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens — that letting go — you let go because you can." — “Tar Baby,” 1981
Finding your voice
“I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.” ― The Nation, 2015
“When I heard I'd won, you heard no 'Aw, shucks' from me. The prize didn't change my inner assessment of what I'm capable of doing, but I welcomed it as a public, representational affirmation of my work. I was surprised at how patriotic I felt, being the first native-born American winner since Steinbeck in 1962 … I felt pride that a black and a woman had been recognized in such an international forum.” — Time, 1998
"Your life is already artful — waiting, just waiting, for you to make it art." — Wellesley College Commencement address, 2004
“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” — Ohio Arts Council Speech, 1981
The words you use are just as important as your achievements. Do the words on your resume reflect your best self? Check with a free resume review today!