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Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019)Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019)

Toni Morrison's (1931–2019) long and illustrious career as an editor, novelist, essayist, playwright, and librettist earned her just about every award imaginable for a person in her position — a Nobel Prize for literature (1993), a National Book Critics Circle Award, and a Pulitzer Prize (1988). She finished her formal career as a professor emerita at Princeton in the Humanities, where she "retired" in 2006. In a twist of fate, this documentary film was released just six weeks before Morrison died on August 5, 2019. In about half the film, a warm, candid, self-effacing, humorous, and affable Morrison talks about her personal life and her professional craft. In the other half of the movie colleagues, critics, and friends offer their reflections about Morrison — for example, Oprah Winfrey, Hilton Als, Angela Davis, and Robert Gottlieb, who was the editor of all her books except for one (and who explains that he urged Morrison to quit her editing job in order to write full time). In my favorite scene, a friend remembers a book event where a person stood up and thanked Morrison for how her work illuminated our universal human condition, and then the next person thanked her for how she articulated the particularity of the black experience in America.

Dan Clendenin:

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