17 Toni Morrison quotes on writing, love, life, and race that show why she was so beloved

Toni Morrison, the iconic American author, professor, Nobel Laureate, and Pulitzer Prize winner, died Tuesday. She was 88 years old.

The groundbreaking novelist was best known for her masterpiece “Beloved” as well as “The Bluest Eye” and “‘Song of Solomon,” all of which focused on the intersection of liberation and race.

As the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, Morrison amassed many prominent admirers throughout her career, including President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey. She received the Medal of Freedom award from Obama in 2012.

In addition to the ideas she expressed through her novels, Morrison passed on her theories through her poetry, essays, lectures, and interviews. Tap into some of her timeless wisdom through her most inspirational and famous quotes below:


“Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God.”

An excerpt from Morrison’s 1997 novel “Paradise.”


“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.”

An excerpt from Morrison’s 1981 novel “Tar Baby.”


“Definitions belong to the definer, not the defined.”

An excerpt from Morrison’s 1987 novel “Beloved.”


“I have spent my entire writing life trying to make sure that the white gaze was not the dominant one in any of my books.”

From the 2019 documentary “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.”


“You are your best thing.”

An excerpt from Morrison’s “Beloved.”


“We mistook violence for passion, indolence for leisure, and thought recklessness was freedom.”

An excerpt from Morrison’s 1970 novel “The Bluest Eye.”


“If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.”

An excerpt from Morrison’s “Song of Solomon.”


“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.'”

A quote from Morrison in a 2003 interview with “O: The Oprah Magazine.”


“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”

An excerpt from Morrison’s “Beloved.”


“Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try. Forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”

An excerpt from Morrison’s 1993 Nobel Lecture In Literature.


“Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.”

An excerpt from Morrison’s 1992 historical novel “Jazz.”


“Make a difference about something other than yourselves.”

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Morrison accepts her 2007 Glamour Magazine Woman of the Year award in New York.
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REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A quote from Morrison in a 1998 interview with The Salon.


“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”

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Morrison at an autograph session in the L’arbre a Lettres bookstore in Paris.
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Olga Besnard/Shutterstock

An excerpt from Morrison’s “Beloved.”


“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”

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Morrison poses after being awarded the Legion of Honour in Paris in November 2010.
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Philippe Wojazer/REUTERS

“There is really nothing more to say—except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.”

An excerpt from Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.”


“And I am all the things I have ever loved: scuppernong wine, cool baptisms in silent water, dream books and number playing.”

An excerpt from Morrison’s “The Black Book.”


“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”