The Mighty Logo

20 Toni Morrison Quotes That Help People in Hard Times

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Toni Morrison, beloved writer and activist, died following a short illness at age 88 on Monday, according to her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. Morrison, one of the most influential black writers of all time, earned a Nobel Prize in Literature, a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Morrison spoke often of mental health themes in her work, which included acclaimed novels such as “The Bluest Eye,” “Beloved” and “Song of Solomon,” even if she didn’t call it out explicitly. She touched on trauma, relationships and loss — her son Slade Morrison died in 2010 at age 45 from pancreatic cancer. She also unapologetically wrote about the black experience, along with contemporaries such as Maya Angelou.

Friends and fans took to social media to mourn the loss of Morrison, and to share their favorite passages from the author. Here are 20 Morrison quotes people shared that help them through hard times:

1. “If you look at the world as a brutal game, then you bump into the mystery of the tree-shaped scar. There seems to be such a thing as grace, such a thing as beauty, such a thing as harmony. All of which are wholly free and available to us.”

2. “If there is a book that you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

3. “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

4. “We die, that may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

5. “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”

6. “Make a difference about something other than yourself.”

7. “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”

8. “Now he knew why he loved her so. Without ever leaving the ground, she could fly.”

9. “The function of freedom is to free someone else.”

10. “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

11. “Anger is better. There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth. It is a lovely surging.”

12. “Word-work is sublime… because it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference – the way in which we are like no other life.”

13. “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough.”

14. “He licked his lips. ‘Well, if you want my opinion…’ ‘I don’t, ‘ She said. ‘I have my own.”

15. “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.”

16. “Tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”

17. “Perhaps that’s what all human relationships boil down to: Would you save my life? or would you take it?”

18. “A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.”

19. “If you can only be tall because somebody’s on their knees, you have a serious problem.”

20. “Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it, summon it, from even the most tragic of circumstances. Art reminds us that we belong here. And if we serve, we last.”

Header image via Toni Morrison’s Facebook page

Originally published: August 6, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home