Want to spend 2 hours completely engrossed in pieces of the life story of Toni Morrison, iconic Black writer? Yes? Then tune into Netflix to watch Toni Morrison: The Pieces I am. Toni Morrison, through her teaching and writing, was critical in the American movement to recognize Black voices in literature. In fact, Morrison was the first black female editor in fiction at Random House, NYC in the late 60s. In her capacity as an editor, Morrison fostered a new generation of African American writers, including the radical activist Angela Davis; she also brought to publication the autobiography of the great, albeit controversial at that time, Muhammed Ali.
Toni Morrison was an Ohio girl, born and raised, but she was eager to expand her world; she left Ohio to attend Howard University, where she earned a BA in English in 1953. She soon gravitated to Cornell University to earn a Masters in American Literature in 1955. Morrison often credited her family with instilling in her a sense of language through the telling of traditional folktales.
As one watches and listens to this autobiographical documentary, one senses Toni Morrison was both stylish and self aware… a strong woman, comfortable smoking on camera, always presenting herself with confidence. Morrison was an innate storyteller; listening to her speak in The Pieces I Am is a gift. Her words are melodic, often evoking the ethereal, though Morrison’s stories are neither delicate nor light. It is clear she reveres the power of the written word. In The Pieces I Am, as she speaks of her novels from The Bluest Eye to Beloved, then Song of Solomon, one feels the urge to sit down and read, or re-read, these novels. I know I did.
Morrison was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Beloved in 1988. She was awarded the Noble Peace Prize for Literature in 1993. On May 29, 2012, Barack Obama presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Tony Morrison died seven years later (2019 )at the age of 88. I like to think of her sitting now, stylishly dressed, high heeled legs crossed, smoking a cigarette as she fondly reminisces about her wild and sexy days at Howard. Watching The Pieces I Am, now available on Netflix, is to be captivated by Ms. Morrison and her story as she gives voice to it.
Photo credit: Saidiya Heartman on Twitter @bonokie___Shop All Things Netflix