Toni Morrison (1931–2019) Tribute List

Acclaimed author Toni Morrison died on August 5, 2019 at the age of 88. Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio in 1931, Morrison rose to the very heights of literature, winning the Nobel Prize in 1993. Morrison wrote essential stories about the African-American experience, both from a historical and contemporary perspective. Her prose could shock, sadden, embolden and invigorate, all in the space of a single page. Here are ten vocabulary words from Toni Morrison, drawn from her novels, interviews, and Nobel Prize lecture.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. cleave
    stick or hold together and resist separation
    They may cleave together like robins or gulls or anything else that mates for life.
    - Paradise
  2. disillusion
    the act of freeing from false belief
    Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another--physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion.
    - The Bluest Eye
  3. eschew
    avoid and stay away from deliberately
    But if they eschew this mighty course, at the moment when all are judged for the disposition of their eternal lives, their cleaving won't mean a thing. God bless the pure and holy. Amen.
    - Paradise
  4. flay
    strip the skin off
    They don't love your eyes; they'd just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face 'cause they don't love that either. You got to love it, you!
    - Beloved
  5. naivete
    lack of sophistication or worldliness
    In a way, her strangeness, her naiveté, her craving for the other half of her equation was the consequence of an idle imagination. Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings, had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with all she yearned for.
    - Sula
  6. refuge
    a shelter from danger or hardship
    There is really nothing more to say-except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.
    - The Bluest Eye
  7. reticence
    the trait of being uncommunicative
    We will not blame you if your reach exceeds your grasp; if love so ignites your words they go down in flames and nothing is left but their scald. Or if, with the reticence of a surgeon's hands, your words suture only the places where blood might flow. We know you can never do it properly - once and for all. Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try.
    - Nobel Lecture, 1993
  8. rivulet
    a small stream
    Pain. I seem to have an affection, a kind of sweettooth for it. Bolts of lightning, little rivulets of thunder.
    And I the eye of the storm.
    - Jazz
  9. sanctify
    make pure or free from sin or guilt
    Her simplicity decorated us, her guilt sanctified us, her pain made us glow with health, her awkwardness made us think we had a sense of humor. Her inarticulateness made us believe we were eloquent. Her poverty kept us generous.
    - The Bluest Eye
  10. utopia
    ideally perfect state
    All paradises, all utopias are designed by who is not there, by the people who are not allowed in.
    - PBS NewsHour Interview, 1998

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