The Source of Self-Regard

Source of Self-Regard coverThe Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations
Toni Morrison
Knopf (February 12, 2019), 369 pages
Kindle edition $14.99, Amazon hardcover $18.87

I haven’t read Toni Morrison before, and I’m not sure that this book was the right place to begin. I suspect that to really appreciate her skills as a writer I should have started with one of her novels.

Nonetheless, this is an important book, reflecting as it does Morrison’s thinking over the past couple of decades. Many of the pieces are speeches, including commencement addresses and her Nobel prize lecture. The book gives us Morrison’s perspectives on race, class, society, and art. Morrison has a lot to tell us.

She makes clear that the work of artists, including writers, must be protected.

quoteThose 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.

Some of her essays have the sound of having been written since the 2016 election, but were apparently actually written in the early 2000s. How much we value and appreciate that interlude of the Obama years!

The occasion and date of each piece is not included with the respective speech or essay, but rather all are grouped together at the end of the book. This was somewhat annoying, but perhaps the editor is telling us that what Morrison has to say is important regardless of context.

Toni Morrison is one of the important voices in the arts and society today. We need to listen to her.

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