Remembering Toni Morrison (1931-2019): Five most relevant novels written by her

Nobel- and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, a leading figure in African-American literature, has explored slavery’s enduring legacy in a poetic, raw voice that has influenced generations of writers.

Here are five standout novels:

Morrison’s first novel, published when she was 39, focused on a young black girl in 1940s Ohio who dreams of having blue eyes — synonymous in her mind with whiteness and beauty in a world shadowed by slavery.

It announced a vivid, raw voice, described at the time by the New York Times as “a prose so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry”.

It met with mixed response at the time of its release and sales were low, but its fortunes turned when it was added to a university reading list.

The novel has since provoked legal challenges and bans from schools in various US states for broaching controversial subjects including incest and child molestation.

Morrison’s second novel — winner of the prestigious US National Book Critics Circle Award — mixed magical realism, folklore and sociology to tell the story of a teenager trying to forget her past as a slave.

It brought forth one of Morrison’s animating themes — the troubled search for identity in a hostile world.

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