The author, teacher, Nobel laureate, and grande dame of American letters has died at the age of 88.
Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, and peerless American author, died yesterday at the age of 88. Since the publication of her debut novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970, Morrison has been established as one of the most powerful and distinct voices in literature, a lyrical chronicler and witness to the African American experience. Her 1987 novel, Beloved, the story of a former enslaved person who is haunted by the child she killed, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, and was named the best work of American fiction of the late 20th century by The New York Times in 2006.
Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio, in 1931, the daughter of a welder and a homemaker who encouraged her to read literature and taught her folktales and spirituals at home. After graduating from Howard University, she taught English literature, eventually becoming an editor at Random House, where she fostered and promoted a generation of black writers. The Bluest Eye grew out of a short story she’d written in high school about a young African American girl who dislikes her own appearance and yearns for blue eyes, which she associates with whiteness and with beauty. Morrison wrote the book, she said in an interview in 2014, “because I wanted to read it. I thought that kind of book, with that subject—those most vulnerable, most undescribed, not taken seriously little black girls—had never existed seriously in literature. No one had ever written about them except as props. Since I couldn’t find a book that did that, I thought, ‘Well, I’ll write it and then I’ll read it.’”
Although The Bluest Eye received little critical attention and mainstream success at the time, it helped introduce Morrison to Bob Bernstein, the then-president of Random House, and to Robert Gottlieb, the editor of novels including Catch-22 and True Grit, who became one of Morrison’s closest collaborators. Morrison’s second novel, Sula, was nominated for the National Book Award; her third, 1977’s Song of Solomon, brought her international acclaim for its epic portrayal of heritage and the sweep of history over one Michigan family. “Few Americans know, and can say, more than [Morrison] has,” a Times critic wrote. Success, Morrison told The Washington Post that year, often felt like “it was happening to a friend of mine that I like a lot.” She described taking her son to a piano lesson and happening across a large display of her work in a bookstore window. “There was this huge sign in the window which said ‘A Triumph’ by Toni Morrison. I was by myself in the car. And I realized that was me they were talking about.”
The 1987 publication of Beloved cemented Morrison’s reputation as one of the most important writers in American history. The book emerged from an intermingled feeling of contentment and anxiety, she told Interview in 2012. She was sitting on her porch overlooking the Hudson River, having recently quit editing to focus on writing full-time. “I was really happy,” Morrison said. “Which is to say, I guess I hadn’t been. I hadn’t felt that—it must have been a combination of happiness and something else. And it was then that I wrote Beloved. It was all like a flood when I wrote that book.” Inspired by the story of a real woman who escaped slavery, Margaret Garner, the novel weaves together a profound tale about the brutal, intergenerational legacy of trauma.
Before Beloved won the Pulitzer, a group of 48 black writers and scholars wrote an open letter to The New York Times praising Morrison’s work and its significance to the American canon:
The legitimate need for our own critical voice in relation to our own literature can no longer be denied. We, therefore, urgently affirm our rightful and positive authority in the realm of American letters and, in this prideful context, we do raise this tribute to the author of The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, and Beloved.
Alive, we write this testament of thanks to you, dear Toni: alive, beloved and persevering, magical. Among the fecund intimacies of our hidden past, and among the coming days of dream or nightmares that will follow from the bidden knowledge of our conscious heart, we find your life work ever building to a monument of vision and discovery and trust. You have never turned away the searching eye, the listening ear attuned to horror or to histories providing for our faith. And freely you have given to us every word that you have found important to the forward movement of our literature, our life. For all of America, for all of American letters, you have advanced the moral and artistic standards by which we must measure the daring and the love of our national imagination and our collective intelligence as a people.
In 2000, Morrison was awarded the National Medal for Humanities, and in 2012 she was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. Morrison’s prose, President Barack Obama said,“brings us that kind of moral and emotional intensity that few writers ever attempt.” In the meantime, she continued to teach throughout her career. In 1989 Morrison was appointed the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University, where she stayed until her retirement in 2006. In addition to her writing, Morrison’s legacy as a professor and a mentor is one of her crowning gifts to a nation that mourns her.
“Word-work is sublime,” Morrison said in her Nobel lecture in 1993, “because it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference—the way in which we are like no other life. We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
Texas officer pulled out woman’s tampon on side of road, settlement expected
SAN ANTONIO – The city of San Antonio is scheduled to vote Thursday on a possible $205,000 settlement for a woman who claims a San Antonio Police officer pulled out her tampon and searched her vaginal cavity on a public street in August 2016.
Natalie D. Simms filed a federal lawsuit against the city of San Antonio after she was approached by police while sitting on the side of a public street, talking on the phone and waiting for her boyfriend.
Simms had driven her car to the area and consented to a vehicle search by police, according to the lawsuit.
Documents show that despite not finding anything illegal during the search of the vehicle, a female officer was called to the scene to search Simms’ body.
Detective Mara Wilson, who is now retired, arrived on scene and conducted the search on Simms in front of several male officers. The search was also partially recorded by a dash camera on Wilson’s police vehicle.
The lawsuit details the conversation between Simms and Wilson during the search and indicates Simms did not consent to a vaginal search.
Wilson pulled Natalie’s pants and underwear down in public and used her flashlight to search the area, in addition to pulling a string attached to a tampon out of Simms vagina, according to the lawsuit.
The conversation between Simms and Wilson, taken directly from the lawsuit, reads:
WILSON: Uh-huh. Are you wearing a tampon, too?
WILSON: Okay. I just want to make sure that’s what it is. Is that a tampon?
SIMMS: Come on. Yes.
WILSON: Huh? Is that a tampon?
SIMMS: It’s full of blood, right? Why would you do that?
WILSON: I don’t know. It looked like it had stuff in there.
SIMMS: There ain’t nothing in there.
Wilson also commented on the amount of pubic hair Simms had and continued to tell Simms they could not go to the police station to finish conducting the search, despite Simms’ persistence, the lawsuit states.
Simms was allowed to drive away following the search when officers didn’t find anything illegal. She filed the lawsuit in March 2018.
If approved during Thursday’s city council meeting, the settlement money would be paid from the city’s self-insurance liability fund.
Mother says 12-Year-Old son Suspended From Worcester Middle School for Hugging Gym Teacher
A 12-year-old student in Worcester, Massachusetts, has been suspended for hugging a gym teacher.
The foster mother of the Forest Grove Middle School student is asking for change after the boy was suspended for 10 days and given a record of physical assault of a teacher.
“I was told he had put his hands on a teacher,” said Julie Orozco. “I was shocked and asked for details on what happened, and then I was told that he hugged his gym teacher.”
“At the end of the day, I just hugged her, nothing really happened,” the seventh-grader said.
NBC10 Boston is not identifying the 12-year-old boy, but Orozco says he fully admits he was fooling around with friends in gym class when the teacher told him to sit out.
“And then I went over just like, and I gave her a hug and said, ‘Please, I don’t want to sit out’ because I like the game,” he said.
After sitting out for five minutes, the teacher allowed him to play.
“I don’t expect the teacher to have to be OK with being touched or being hugged, but I do expect as an educator that she educate what the boundaries are in her classroom,” Orozco said.
She says after several phone calls, emails and an eventual hearing, she got his school record reduced to “disruption of school” and his suspension reduced to four days. But she says there’s nothing in the school handbook about hugs and she doesn’t want this incident to be held against him in the future.
“If you can admit to me that you didn’t have a mechanism or a process, or any way of informing students what your expectations were, but then in the same breath you say to me, ‘He’s 12, he should know hugs are not OK,’ it’s confounding,” Orozco said.
Reached by phone, the school district’s safety director said the district has no comment on the matter.
Orozco has been invited by the school committee to speak at their meeting Thursday about what her son is going through.
Texas police officer facing DWI charges after being found passed out at drive-thru
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Corpus Christi Police Department officer is facing DWI charges after being found passed out at a drive-thru this weekend.
Donnie Mersing, Jr., 51, was arrested at 3:08 a.m Saturday. According to court documents, officers were dispatched to the Whataburger on the 4000 block of IH-69. An off-duty officer said he found Mersing sitting in the driver seat of his truck, asleep in the drive-thru.
That off-duty officer said Whataburger staff told him Mersing had ordered and was passed out between the two drive-thru windows. The off-duty officer walked outside and started hitting the the vehicle window to wake up Mersing.
According to the report, “it took him awhile to wake up but when he did he found that Mersing seemed out of it.”
The off-duty officer had Mersing pull into a parking stall in order to clear the line of vehicles waiting behind him.
Once Mersing pulled into a parking spot, he handed the officer his driver’s license and his Corpus Christi Police Department’s identification card.
When an officer with the Corpus Christi Police Department arrived, she found that Mersing had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.
According to the report, he “had an odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting for his person.”
Mersing told the officer he had been up since 5:30 a.m. He was tired and fell asleep. Mersing said he just stopped at Whataburger to get a breakfast burger and was heading back home.
According to the report, Mersing told the officer he was coming from his home. He also said he had a six-pack of Bud Light around noon and also had a beer with dinner.
Mersing was arrested for driving while intoxicated. He was taken to the City Detention Center where he refused to provide a breath specimen.
A judge set Mersing’s bond at $2,500. He bonded out of the Nueces County Jail later that day.
There’s no word yet on Mersing’s status with the Corpus Christi Police Department.