The award-winning author and literary icon Toni Morrison passed away on August 5, 2019, however, her books remain at the forefront of literature and “The Pieces I Am,” is now showing in select theaters. The film gives an intimate glimpse of her amazing story and features numerous prominent figures.
AYA DE LEON, AUTHOR
“When I was coming up, Toni Morrison was in the process of breaking through the glass ceilings that had always existed for Black women in the literary world. She won the Pulitzer and the Nobel. It was an exciting time of no limits for Black women, but also daunting because she was such a genius. We had to be twice as good to get half as far. And Toni Morrison was all that and more. She set the bar so high that it was also intimidating, particularly for a genre writer like me. My favorite book of hers is Song of Solomon, because it’s literary fiction, but it also has elements of mystery.
Her biggest impact on me was threefold: how she stanned for women’s friendships in Sula (which I first read in high school), how she was an early voice deconstructing “whiteness,” and how she modeled literary success as a working, single mom. Nothing was going to stop her from writing. And writing so powerfully. As I’ve grown up and stopped being so intimidated, I think the biggest gift of Toni Morrison is not that we all have to be just like her, but that her very existence opened up more room for Black women and greater possibilities for all of us.”
ABOUT AYA DE LEON
The award-winning author and poet is of Puerto Rican, African-American, and West Indian heritage, and much of her work explores issues of race, gender, socio-economic class, body and nation. De León teaches creative writing in UC Berkeley’s African American Studies Department. Her award-winning Justice Hustlers series has received acclaim in the Washington Post, Jacobin Magazine, and The Establishment. Her work has also appeared in Ebony, Essence, Guernica, Plougshares, The Root, VICE, and on Def Poetry. She is an alumna of Cave Canem and VONA. @ayadeleon
SADEQA JOHNSON, AUTHOR
“When I was in 8th grade my father took me to the only Black bookstore in Philadelphia, and bought me The Bluest Eye. It was the first time I read a book that featured a Black girl as the main character and I remember identifying with her experience. Toni Morrison’s work shaped my taste in reading and gave me the courage to write my own stories.”
ABOUT SADEQA JOHNSON
Sadeqa Johnson is the award-winning author of And Then There Was Me, Second House From the Corner and Love in a Carry-on Bag. Her accolades include being the recipient of the National Book Club award, Phillis Wheatley award and the USA Best Book award for best fiction. She is a Kimbilio Fellow, and proud member of the TALL POPPY WRITERS. She is currently finishing up her first historical novel, based on the Lumpkin’s slave jail in Richmond. Originally from Philadelphia, she currently lives in Midlothian, Virginia where she runs half marathons, is a sometime yogi, motivational speaker, writing teacher and carpool chauffeur to her three children, and all their friends. @Sadeqasays
RESHONDA TATE BILLINGSLEY, AUTHOR
“Toni Morrison was more than just a writer…she was inspiration who pushed others to find their voices. During my writing, I often say, ‘What would Toni do?’ It’s not that I wanted to emulate her because I take pride in my own unique voice. But that line of thinking always helped me elevate my writing and for that, I was always appreciative. She will be forever missed.”
About ReShonda Tate Billingsley
She is the author of 50 books, including her latest, More to Life. Two of her books have been made into TV films: Let the Church Say Amen, produced for BET and Netflix by T.D. Jakes and Queen Latifah and directed by Regina King; and The Secret She Kept, which aired on TV One. @ReShondaT