Toni Morrison's Spiritual Vision: Faith, Folktales, and Feminism in Her Life and Literature
When Toni Morrison died in August 2019, she was widely remembered for her contributions to literature as an African American woman, an identity she wore proudly. Morrison was clear that she wrote from a Black, female perspective and for others who shared her identity. But just as much as she was an African American writer, Toni Morrison was a woman of faith.
Morrison filled her novels with biblical allusions, magic, folktales, and liberated women, largely because Christianity, African American folk magic, and powerful women defined her own life. She grew up with family members who could interpret dreams, predict the future, see ghosts, and go about their business. Her relatives, particularly her mother, were good storytellers, and her family's oral tradition included ghost stories and African American folktales. But her family was also Christian. As a child, Morrison converted to Catholicism and chose a baptismal name that truly became her own--Anthony, from St. Anthony of Padua--going from Chloe to Toni. Morrison embraced both Catholicism and the occult as a child and, later, as a writer. She was deeply religious, and her spirituality included the Bible, the paranormal, and the folktales she heard as a child.
Toni Morrison's Spiritual Vision unpacks this oft-ignored, but essential, element of Toni Morrison's work--her religion--and in so doing, gives readers a deeper, richer understanding of her life and her writing. In its pages, Nadra Nittle remembers and understands Morrison for all of who she was: a writer, a Black woman, and a person of complex faith. As Nittle's wide-ranging, deep exploration of Morrison's oeuvre reveals, to fully understand the writing of Toni Morrison one must also understand the role of religion and spirituality in her life and literature.