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Personal Reflections on a Personal Hero: African American Author Toni Morrison

Like a lot of gay kids, dealing with the loud sounds coming from the family about conforming, I found friends in books. There were the old favorites: Herman Hesse, Garcia Marquez, and I always loved me my Hamlet. I discovered that most of the Shakespeare sonnets were written to a beautiful young youth, that gave me pause. And Plato said that same-sex love was spiritual love. I lost myself in books. At one point, in High School, Elizabeth Graham (that crazy strict teacher whom you hate but who teaches you to love yourself) gave me a present: Toni Morrison’s Beloved. My life was changed. First off, I realized that black literature spoke to me like nothing else. This was before, of course, I discovered gay literature, but still, the story of Sethe, a fleeing fugitive slave who kills her own children rather than have them returned to the Plantation struck a chord. Then the murdered child—Beloved—comes back to haunt the house! She is sexy, beautiful, hot and dangerous. there were all these secret same-love relations, between Sethe and Beloved, between Sethe’s remaining daughter and Beloved. All done in Faulkner stream of consciousness, history as art, art as history. What was happening here? Authors of books were family to me, so when we lost Morrison last week, I felt like my own family member had passed. But listen to her words, speaking to us still: “This is precisely the time when artists go to to work…There is not 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.”

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