When people ask me what I do, I quote Toni Morrison: ‘I read books. I teach books. I write books. I think about books. It’s one job.’ I’ve read and taught, written and thought about Morrison’s books for most of my life. Next year, I’m teaching a course at Berkeley devoted entirely to her brilliance. I’ve analysed and tried to enact the philosophy I see in her novels: a mode of adjacency whereby people and stories and forms sit beside each other, hold hands.
But beyond that, Morrison holds me. Her writing about blackness and womanhood holds my experiences, though I was born far from Lorain, Ohio. Her voice – precise, beautiful, warm, gripping – holds me, sometimes too close, but in a way that thrills rather than threatens. And she holds me to account. She is an absolute model of integrity: uncompromising, fearless, full to the brim with everything she is.