November 5, 2019

Remembering Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison with Wendy Martin

Professor Wendy Martin and the cover of her book "American Women Writers"
HONORING A LEGACY: Professor Wendy Martin's book, with Sharone Williams, on American Writers, features the iconic Toni Morrison on the cover.

The recent screening of a new documentary, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, at the Laemmle Claremont 5 Theatre has provided an invaluable tribute for fans and admirers of the film’s beloved subject, who died in August at the age of 88.

One such admirer, Professor of American Literature and American Studies Wendy Martin, says the American Nobel laureate was nothing short of “legendary”—a trailblazer who gave a voice to the generation of writers and artists who followed her.

“There’s a reason why she’s on the cover” of 2016’s The Routledge Introduction to American Women Writers, says Martin, who co-authored the book with Sharone Williams (PhD, English, ’13). Its cover presents two iconic images—Morrison’s alongside Emily Dickinson’s.

Morrison helped marginalized and silenced voices to join American literature’s mainstream.

Among Morrison’s greatest successes, Martin says, was “to open a space for the next generation of black writers and writers of color, in general. Toni Morrison has made it possible for socially marginalized and historically silenced voices to become part of mainstream American Literature.”

In 1987, the same year that Martin arrived at CGU, Morrison visited the Claremont Colleges to discuss her newest book at the time, Beloved. Martin met her, and has been teaching her works ever since.

“Students feel their world is enlarged” when reading Morrison’s words, Martin says.

Even with the prolific author and humanitarian now gone, her works are still at our fingertips, her words linger in the air, and her legacy remains in the hearts of millions of established and aspiring voices. As Morrison relayed in her 1993 Nobel Prize acceptance speech: “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” For many, this continues to ring true.