A Love Letter to Toni Morrison

Tomorrow I will begin posting daily Lent reflections from this devotional. But today is Toni Morrison’s birthday! She would have been 90 years old. (As I type this, my dog, Toni, is sleeping on the chair beside me. My husband graciously tolerates me naming our pets after favorite writers.)

(Yes, there are references to seven of her novels in the text of the letter. Because I’m a geek like that.)

Dear, Beloved, Toni Morrison,

You taught me the beauty and power of women before I knew I was a feminist.

You taught me to love black people, to weep over black grief and rage at injustice against black bodies and marvel at black resilience and joy before I knew I aspired to be anti-racist.

Before I was a writer, you taught me that words on a page can burst into song, making toes tap to the silent jazz rhythms of language; that the right sounds and images and characters can be magic.

Before I was a preacher, you taught me that a good story is the best sermon, and a mercy to the congregation.

You taught me to find and claim and love my home when I was unsettled and wandering.

You were—you are—an unrelenting teacher. The energy of your grace compelling, the fierceness of your love convicting. Every novel you gave us is a paradise of words: a welcome and a warning; a truth that is beautiful even when it is hard.

Today I celebrate your life, I honor your words, I give gratitude to you and for you.

Your ever-grateful student,

From Enoch Pratt Library January 29, 1998
© copyright John Mathew Smith 2001

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