Cherie Jones on Toni Morrison
There was this one summer, I must have been about 12, when I discovered the writing of both Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. Maya’s writing was open, honest, embracing. Toni’s, equally important, equally honest, was somehow more obscure. Maya’s truths were clearly presented, served like confidences between firm friends. Toni’s left me peeling back the layers of the onion long after the last page, unaware that tears were but a necessary nuisance. Weeks later, when I felt I’d arrived at the core of the thing, I’d be floored, rushing for a re-read to make certain that the truth I’d just received had, indeed, been sitting in the subtleties of her story all along.
The first Toni Morrison book I read was ‘Tar Baby’ and the impression it made on me was immediate, visceral, complex. I knew after I read (and re-read) it that something fundamental had shifted, but it was years before I could even begin to understand how Toni Morrison had influenced my own writing. It was Toni who taught me how beautifully words could be wrought to tell the truth about difficult and ugly things. I watched how she drew circles around events, places and people, making the stories of each intersect so that the shaded areas in between shone a light on life, a light so brilliant, nothing could stay hidden beneath it. I read her words and I rummaged in the spaces until I understood. That summer, I inhaled every Toni Morrison book I could get my hands on. I still return to several of those yellowing books today. I’m still finding magic in those spaces.
Check out Cherie Jones’ latest book How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House
Cherie Jones is a writer, mom and lawyer. She is a graduate of the MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam University where she was awarded the Archie Markham Award and the A M Heath Prize.
Her publication credits include The Feminist Wire, PANK, Eclectica and BBC Radio 4. She is a past fellowship awardee of the Vermont Studio Centre.
Cherie’s first novel ‘How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House’ was shortlisted for the 2021 UK Women’s Prize and longlisted for the OCM Bocas.