First, this isn’t Caribbean-specific but I think we can agree that Toni Morrison through the impact of her literature was a global citizen, a Nobel Laureate, and the writer of several seminal works and many words of wisdom and insight re writing and living. Given how huge her presence was it struck me sideways when someone I adore asked ‘who’s that’ when I commented on her passing this past weekend. No shade, just a reminder that we all occupy different realities and though Toni Morrison is one who overlapped with her being a cultural and social critic/commentator, being adapted to film, and writing books like The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Jazz, and Love – and that’s just counting the ones I’ve read. To that list can be added Beloved, Paradise, Tar Baby, and others – including ones on my TBR like The Origin of Others, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, and Paradise which I’ve started and re-started but not yet finished. No it’s not an official DNF. Toni could never be that plus I had a similar experience with Jazz and it turned out to be a personal favourite – proving to be one of those the right book reveals itself to you at the right time experiences. My favourite is my first, Song of Solomon, which I’m now feeling an urge to re-read all these years after I was introduced to it and Morrison in University (though I don’t typically re-read books). As with some other icons I thought would be around forever, I think I’m still in the numb-shock stage of Toni’s passing. I’m short on the deep insights and eloquence some have mustered. I want to suggest only that one of the ways we learn to write is by reading and part of the ways we learn to make sense of our living is to see its reflection in our art. Toni created writing that teaches us how to write and informs us on our lives lived – especially so our lives as black people, especially given that she was a writer very specific about not writing for the white gaze. If you haven’t already, go read her. That’s the best tribute we can pay to a writer of her caliber (or any writer, really) on their dying (and, as it happens, on their living).
This next one isn’t Caribbean exclusive but it is Caribbean inclusive. Some months ago, the Commonwealth Foundation asked me to participate in a survey re the work of the Commonwealth and how I have benefited from it. And I have – between an editors’ workshop, a fiction writers’ workshop, publication of my Commonwealth short story prize submission in Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean (which included the winning piece and the best of the rest from the region), being published on the Commonwealth Writers platform Adda, being invited and sponsored by the Commonwealth to participate in the Aye Write! literary festival in Scotland, and probably more that I’m not thinking of right now. Thankful for those opportunities and was quoted saying as much in the report.
Read the full report on the work of the Commonwealth, not just in the area of the creative arts and not just in the Caribbean but across the Commonwealth in areas ranging from health to land rights to climate change: Stronger-civic-voices-across-the-Commonwealth (1)
As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. All rights reserved.