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  • Writer's pictureGina Greenlee, Author

Toni Morrison on “Standing at the Edge and Claiming it Center”

Toni Morrison

Interviewer: You don’t think you will ever change and write books that will incorporate White lives into them substantially?


Toni: I have done.


Interviewer: In a substantial way?


Toni: You can’t understand how powerfully racist that question is, can you? Because you would never ask a White author, ‘when are you going to write about Black people? Whether he did or not, or she did or not. Even the inquiry comes from a position of being in the center…


Interviewer…and being used to being in the center.


Toni: And being used to being in the center. And saying, ‘is it ever possible that you will enter the mainstream?’ [That question implies that] it’s inconceivable that where I already am is the mainstream… Being an African American writer is like being a Russian writer, who writes about Russia, in Russian for Russians. And the fact that it gets translated and read by other people is a benefit. It’s a plus. But [the Russian writer] is not obliged to ever consider writing about French people or Americans or anybody.


Interviewer: When we were talking earlier about you being or not being in the mainstream, you are sure in the mainstream when it comes to public acclaim.


Toni: I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to know that I have earned a readership that is that large. I stood at the border, stood at the edge, and claimed it as central. Claimed it. And let the rest of the world move over to where I was.

Toni Morrison
Image credit: Nobel Foundation, Boo Jonsson

Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison and King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden proceed into the Blue Hall of the Stockholm City Hall for the Nobel Banquet on 10 December 1993.


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