Inspired. Informed. Educated. An iconic life exceptionally captured in one piece by author and educator Tiffani Knowles.
Excerpt cited. Read Tiffani’s full piece here
It was 1965, after splitting from Harold, when she began her career as an editor at Random House where she was instrumental in publishing American writers and luminaries such as Angela Davis, Henry Dumas and Muhammad Ali.
Yet, she knew there was a story that still needed to be told, one she hadn’t read or seen before.
At first, she was private about her own writing and would do so as a pastime very early in the morning before her boys would wake.
“I remember reading the ‘Bluest Eye’ and thought it was wonderful,” said Robert Gottlieb, a Random House colleague and the chief editor of the Alfred Knopf sub-division.
When Random House got wind of the fact that she was publishing, they wanted to keep her work in house and so, with the exception of one book, Gottlieb got to edit all of her books while they were published through Knopf.
Her first book, as Morrison claimed, intentionally eliminated the white gaze without “codes or notes explaining things to white people,” as she decided to put the entire plot on the first page.
“Quiet as it’s kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father’s baby that the marigolds did not grow.”
It was 1970 and “The Bluest Eye” boasted a story inspired by a conversation Morrison had had with an elementary schoolmate in Lorain many years before.
Her friend told her she had been asking God to give her blue eyes and he never did.
“How painful … can you imagine that kind of pain?” Morrison recounted for filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders in the “The Pieces I Am” documentary. “So, I wanted to say, this kind of racism hurts. This is not lynchings and murders and drownings. This is interior pain. It’s so deep to know that an 11 year old would think that if only she had some characteristic of the white world, she would be OK.”