The first Toni Morrison book I read was "The Bluest Eye." It's about a black girl who yearns for blue eyes. The story shows the stifling and warping effects that racism can have on a young mind. 

Beyond what I learned from the book, I was struck by the beauty of Morrison's writing style, her elegant, evocative sentences that flow so naturally. 

Morrison has written dozens of books throughout her career. She's won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Pullitzer Prize and many others. She's influenced generations of people with her powerful stories of hardship and bruised redemption.

Today she turns 85. To celebrate the birthday of one of the greatest US authors alive, let's reflect on some of her inspiring, insightful words from over the years. 

And I am all the things I have ever loved: scuppernong wine, cool baptisms in silent water, dream books and number playing.

Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.

I tell my students, "When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”

We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.

To get to a place where you could love anything you chose--not to need permission for desire--well now that was freedom.

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

Writing is really a way of thinking--not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious, problematic or just sweet.

As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.

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

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.

There is really nothing more to say-except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.

One recurring theme throughout Morrison's work is the power of the imagination to shape the contours of a life. 

Global citizens can imagine a world without extreme poverty by 2030, and let that idea shape their life into action.

I think it's safe to say that that's a dream Toni Morrison shares. 


Defeat Poverty

Happy Birthday Toni Morrison – 11 of her quotes to celebrate

By Joe McCarthy