February – Toni Morrison

Book Club Selection (Meeting on March 6, 2024) – Beloved  (1987)

Books are available at the circulation desk. eBooks and audiobooks available on Libby!


Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford on Feb. 18, 1931, Toni Morrison grew up in Lorain, Ohio, an integrated working-class community about 30 miles west of Cleveland. Young Chloe grew up in a house suffused with narrative and superstition. She adored listening to ghost stories; her grandmother ritually consulted a book on dream interpretation, from which she divined the day’s selections when she played the numbers.At 12, Chloe joined the Roman Catholic Church. She took the baptismal name Anthony, becoming known as Chloe Anthony Wofford. That name would be the seed from which her nickname would spring a few years later, when she was an undergraduate at Howard University in Washington. She began calling herself Toni then, she said, because her classmates found the name Chloe bewildering. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Howard with a major in English and a minor in classics in 1953, she earned a master’s in English from Cornell in 1955. She taught English for two years at Texas Southern University, a historically black institution in Houston, before returning to Howard as a faculty member. There, she joined a fiction workshop and began writing in earnest. Required to bring a sample to a workshop meeting, she began work on a story about a black girl who craves blue eyes — the kernel of her first novel. In 1958, she married Harold Morrison, an architect from Jamaica; they were divorced in 1964. In interviews, Ms. Morrison rarely spoke of the marriage, though she intimated that her husband had wanted a traditional 1950s wife — and that, she could never be. After her divorce, Ms. Morrison moved with her sons to Syracuse, where she took a job as an editor with a textbook division of Random House. A stranger in the city, she found herself achingly lonely. In the interstices between work and motherhood, she began turning her short story into “The Bluest Eye.”

Influences in Writing (click on the links to check out works by, and about, these authors!)

Morrison’s parents instilled in her a sense of heritage and language through telling traditional African-American folktales, ghost stories, and singing songs. She read frequently as a child; among her favorite authors were Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy.

Influences in Action

During these years Morrison was deeply influenced by her peers – the circle of artists, thinkers and activists centered in and around the Black Arts Movement. Key figures included Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Jayne Cortez and Maya Angelou. James Baldwin, though of an earlier generation, is also among Morrison’s many influences, as is Zora Neale Hurston.

Influence as an Editor

As an editor, Morrison’s impact cannot be understated. In addition to putting out works by Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Davis, Huey P. Newton, Muhammad Ali and others, she worked on the 1972 anthology Contemporary African Literature and brought attention to the works of lesser-known writers such as Gayl Jones and Henry Dumas, as well as Wole Soyinka, and Chinua Achebe.

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

Watch the documentary, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I am, now, for FREE, on Hoopla!, visit https://bit.ly/3RsYW7B to get started!

Click here to download a copy of the reader’s guide!