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The Source of Self-Regard
Toni Morrison
Literary Fiction
African American Interest
General Nonfiction
Social Science
Arguably the most celebrated and revered writer of our time now gives us a new nonfiction collectiona rich gathering of her essays, speeches, and meditations on...
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Arguably the most celebrated and revered writer of our time now gives us a new nonfiction collection--a rich gathering of her essays, speeches, and meditations on society, culture, and art, spanning four decades.

The Source of Self-Regard is brimming with all the elegance of mind and style, the literary prowess and moral compass that are Toni Morrison's inimitable hallmark. It is divided into three parts: the first is introduced by a powerful prayer for the dead of 9/11; the second by a searching meditation on Martin Luther King Jr., and the last by a heart-wrenching eulogy for James Baldwin. In the writings and speeches included here, Morrison takes on contested social issues: the foreigner, female empowerment, the press, money, "black matter(s)," and human rights. She looks at enduring matters of culture: the role of the artist in society, the literary imagination, the Afro-American presence in American literature, and in her Nobel lecture, the power of language itself. And here too is piercing commentary on her own work (including The Bluest Eye, Sula, Tar Baby, Jazz, Beloved, and Paradise) and that of others, among them, painter and collagist Romare Bearden, author Toni Cade Bambara, and theater director Peter Sellars. In all, The Source of Self-Regard is a luminous and essential addition to Toni Morrison's oeuvre.

Author Notes

Toni Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio on February 18, 1931. She received a B.A. in English from Howard University in 1953 and a master's degree in English from Cornell University in 1955 with her thesis on the theme of suicide in modern literature. She taught at several universities including Texas Southern University, Howard University, and Princeton University.

Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. Her other works include Sula, Tar Baby, Jazz, Paradise, Love, A Mercy, Home, and God Help the Child. She has won several awards including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon in 1977, the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved in 1988, the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, the Edward MacDowell Medal for her outstanding contribution to American culture in 2016, and the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction in 2016. She also co-wrote children's books with her son, Slade Morrison, including The Big Box, The Book of Mean People, and Peeny Butter Fudge.

Toni Morrison passed away on August 5, 2019 at the age of 88, after a short illness.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Some superb pieces headline this rich, if perhaps overstocked, collection of primarily spoken addresses and tributes by Nobel laureate Morrison. Many are prescient and highly relevant to the present political moment. For example, Morrison alludes in 1996 to controversy at the U.S.-Mexico border, writing that "it is precisely 'the south' where walls, fences, armed guards, and foaming hysteria are, at this very moment, gathering." She focuses, of course, on the issues closest to her heart: racism, the move away from compassion in modern-day society, the often invisible presence of African-Americans in American literature, and her own novels. Some of her strongest pieces are the longest: for example, her talk on Gertrude Stein, and her two essays on race in literature, "Black Matter(s)" and "Unspeakable Things Unspoken" are must-reads. The collection is organized thematically, which is helpful, but because the pieces jump around in time, dates would be a valuable addition to the essay titles. And while it is no doubt important to create a comprehensive collection of such a noted figure's writings, the book, which includes 43 selections, can seem padded and overlong at times. Nevertheless, this thoughtful anthology makes for often unsettling, and relevant, reading. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* For more than four decades, Morrison has written luminous fiction exploring the human condition through complex characters and nonfiction works steeped in sharp intelligence and imagination. This collection of essays and speeches covers a wide variety of topics that resonate with current issues. She begins by focusing on notions of the foreigner in the churning global diaspora driven by economics and geopolitical conflict and challenging easy notions of identity. Even as technology has narrowed geographic distances, the global movement of populations of people has provoked fear and freighted perceptions of boundaries and frontiers. In a meditation on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Morrison examines the complex history of race relations in the U.S. and how it has inexorably tied criminality and stigma to black bodies and created a legacy of racism that has outlived slavery. Finally, starting with a touching eulogy of James Baldwin, Morrison takes a close look at her own work and that of writers and artists, including Baldwin, Achebe, Faulkner, and Bearden, and the profound impact of the arts. Morrison turns a critical eye on race, social politics, money, feminism, culture, and the press, with the essential mandate that each of us bears the responsibility for reaching beyond our superficial identifies and circumstances for a closer look at what it means to be human. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Every book by Nobel laureate Morrison is a magnet for readers, and this is a particularly timely, involving, and provocative gathering of though-pieces and inquiries.--Vanessa Bush Copyright 2019 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

MAMA'S LAST HUG: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves, by Frans de Waal. (Norton, $27.95.) De Waal argues that we make a grave mistake when we pretend that only humans think, feel and know, and cites neurochemical studies to conclude that feelings like love, anger and joy are widespread throughout the animal kingdom. THE WHITE BOOK, by Han Kang. Translated by Deborah Smith. (Hogarth, $20.) In this latest novel from the author of "The Vegetarian," a Korean writer wanders the city of Warsaw, haunted by her family's losses - and by her country's inability to mourn its own. THE BORDER, by Don Winslow. (Morrow/HarperCollins, $28.99.) The final volume of Winslow's monumental trilogy about the Mexican drug cartels and the American dealers, fixers and addicts who keep the trade flourishing. Whether good, bad or altogether hopeless, his characters are full of life and hard to forget. THE SOURCE OF SELF-REGARD: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations, by Toni Morrison. (Knopf, $28.95.) Spanning four decades of Morrison's illustrious career, this collection includes a stirring eulogy to James Baldwin, a prayer for the victims of 9/11 and insights into "Beloved" and her other novels. DEATH IS HARD WORK, by Khaled Khalifa. Translated by Leri Price. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) Khalifa's fifth novel about siblings reunited by their father's death during Syria's current war, wrestles with themes of societal demise and rejuvenation on a tableau every bit as haunted by violence as the swamps and redclay roads of Faulkner's South. SAY NOTHING: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe. (Doubleday, $28.95.) Part history, part true crime, Keefe's book uses the abduction and murder of a Belfast mother to illuminate the bitter conflict known as the Troubles. THE HEAVENS, by Sandra Newman. (Grove, $26.) This novel, which explores notions of time travel, romance and mental stability, features a heroine who comes to believe she lives simultaneously in Elizabethan England and 21st-century New York, with events in one period affecting life in the other. EMPIRES OF THE WEAK: The Real Story of European Expansion and the Creation of the New World Order, by J. C. Sharman. (Princeton, $27.95.) Taking in 1,000 years of history, Sharman makes the provocative case that European supremacy is a mere blip in mankind's narrative, which is in fact dominated by Asia. ON THE COME UP, by Angie Thomas. (Balzer + Bray, $18.99; ages 12 and up.) Set in the same neighborhood as "The Hate U Give," Thomas's riveting follow-up introduces an aspiring rapper. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web:

Kirkus Review

Brilliantly incisive essays, speeches, and meditations considering race, power, identity, and art.A prominent public intellectual even before being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, novelist Morrison (Emerita, Humanities/Princeton Univ.; The Origin of Others, 2017, etc.) has lectured and written about urgent social and cultural matters for more than four decades. Her latest collection gathers more than 40 pieces (including her Nobel lecture), revealing the passion, compassion, and profound humanity that distinguish her writing. Freedom, dignity, and responsibility recur as salient issues. Speaking to the Sarah Lawrence graduating class in 1988, Morrison urges her listeners to go beyond "an intelligent encounter with problem-solving" to engage in dreaming. "Not the activity of the sleeping brain, but rather the activity of a wakened, alert one" that can foster empathya sense of intimacy that "should precede our decision-making, our cause-mongering, our action." To graduates of Barnard in 1979 she recasts the fairy tale of "Cinderella," focusing on the women who exploit and oppress the heroine, to urge her audience to "pay as much attention to our nurturing sensibilities as to our ambition." "In wielding the power that is deservedly yours," she adds, "don't permit it to enslave your stepsisters." In an adroitand chillingly prescientpolitical critique published in the Nation in 1995, she warns of the complicity between racism and fascism, perceiving a culture where fear, denial, and complacency prevail and where "our intelligence [is] sloganized, our strength downsized, our privacy auctioned." "Fascism talks ideology," she writes, "but it is really just marketingmarketing for power." Speaking at Princeton in 1998, she considers the linguistic and moral challenges she faced in writing Paradise, one of many pieces offering insights into her fiction. Aiming to produce "race-specific race-free prose," she confronted the problem of writing about personal identity "in a language in which the codes of racial hierarchy and disdain are deeply embedded"as well as the problem of writing about the intellectually complex idea of paradise "in an age of theme parks."Powerful, highly compelling pieces from one of our greatest writers. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

Nobel Prize-winning novelist Morrison (Beloved; Song of Solomon) presents a rich collection of essays from 1976 to 2013, primarily speeches given at college convocations, lectures series, conferences, commencement addresses, and symposiums, among other occasions. Topics vary, reflecting the intellectual curiosity and pursuits of the author. As in any collection of this sort, not every selection is outstanding; there are repetitions that call upon readers to skim those pieces less memorable. But for every instance of sameness in topic there are many entries that are educational, revelatory, and enlightening. Morrison is a master of the luminous thought, of the sense of outrage or compassion that makes readers feel as if they are in the presence of an author who deeply cares about literature and the themes that engage her. Topics include the author developing the openings of her novels and deciding what tone or turn of phrase was the perfect vehicle to convey her insights about humanity. Other themes address racism and fascism, the importance of advocacy for the arts, the heritage of slavery, and especially Morrison's tributes to Martin Luther King Jr., writers James Baldwin, Chinua Achebe, and William Faulkner, and artist Romare Bearden. VERDICT Essential for Morrison readers who wish to supplement their appreciation of her achievements with her thoughts on American life and literature. Highly recommended.-Morris Hounion, New York City Coll. of Technology, Brooklyn © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Peril Authoritarian regimes, dictators, despots are often, but not always, fools. But none is foolish enough to give perceptive, dissident writers free range to publish their judgments or follow their creative instincts. They know they do so at their own peril. They are not stupid enough to abandon control (overt or insidious) over media. Their methods include surveillance, censorship, arrest, even slaughter of those writers informing and disturbing the public. Writers who are unsettling, call­ing into question, taking another, deeper look. Writers--journalists, essayists, bloggers, poets, playwrights--can disturb the social oppres­sion that functions like a coma on the population, a coma despots call peace, and they stanch the blood flow of war that hawks and profiteers thrill to. That is their peril. Ours is of another sort. How bleak, unlivable, insufferable existence becomes when we are deprived of artwork. That the life and work of writers facing peril must be protected is urgent, but along with that urgency we should remind ourselves that their absence, the choking off of a writer's work, its cruel amputation, is of equal peril to us. The rescue we extend to them is a generosity to ourselves. We all know nations that can be identified by the flight of writers from their shores. These are regimes whose fear of unmonitored writ­ing is justified because truth is trouble. It is trouble for the warmonger, the torturer, the corporate thief, the political hack, the corrupt justice system, and for a comatose public. Unpersecuted, unjailed, unha­rassed writers are trouble for the ignorant bully, the sly racist, and the predators feeding off the world's resources. The alarm, the disquiet, writers raise is instructive because it is open and vulnerable, because if unpoliced it is threatening. Therefore the historical suppression of writers is the earliest harbinger of the steady peeling away of additional rights and liberties that will follow. The history of persecuted writers is as long as the history of literature itself. And the efforts to cen­sor, starve, regulate, and annihilate us are clear signs that something important has taken place. Cultural and political forces can sweep clean all but the "safe," all but state-approved art. I have been told that there are two human responses to the per­ception of chaos: naming and violence. When the chaos is simply the unknown, the naming can be accomplished effortlessly--a new species, star, formula, equation, prognosis. There is also mapping, charting, or devising proper nouns for unnamed or stripped-of-names geography, landscape, or population. When chaos resists, either by reforming itself or by rebelling against imposed order, violence is understood to be the most frequent response and the most rational when confronting the unknown, the catastrophic, the wild, wanton, or incorrigible. Rational responses may be censure; incarceration in holding camps, prisons; or death, singly or in war. There is, however, a third response to chaos, which I have not heard about, which is stillness. Such stillness can be passivity and dumbfoundedness; it can be paralytic fear. But it can also be art. Those writers plying their craft near to or far from the throne of raw power, of military power, of empire building and countinghouses, writers who construct mean­ing in the face of chaos must be nurtured, protected. And it is right that such protection be initiated by other writers. And it is impera­tive not only to save the besieged writers but to save ourselves. The thought that leads me to contemplate with dread the erasure of other voices, of unwritten novels, poems whispered or swallowed for fear of being overheard by the wrong people, outlawed languages flourishing underground, essayists' questions challenging authority never being posed, unstaged plays, canceled films--that thought is a nightmare. As though a whole universe is being described in invisible ink. Certain kinds of trauma visited on peoples are so deep, so cruel, that unlike money, unlike vengeance, even unlike justice, or rights, or the goodwill of others, only writers can translate such trauma and turn sorrow into meaning, sharpening the moral imagination. A writer's life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity. Excerpted from The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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