The Source of Self-Regard
Arguably the most celebrated and revered writer of our time now gives us a new nonfiction collection--a rich gathering of her essays, speeches, and meditations on society, culture, and art, spanning four decades.The Source of Self-Regard is brimming with all the elegance of mind and style, the literary prowess and moral compass that are Toni Morrison's inimitable hallmark. It is divided into three parts: the first is introduced by a powerful prayer for the dead of 9/11; the second by a searching meditation on Martin Luther King Jr., and the last by a heart-wrenching eulogy for James Baldwin. In the writings and speeches included here, Morrison takes on contested social issues: the foreigner, female empowerment, the press, money, "black matter(s)," and human rights. She looks at enduring matters of culture: the role of the artist in society, the literary imagination, the Afro-American presence in American literature, and in her Nobel lecture, the power of language itself. And here too is piercing commentary on her own work (including The Bluest Eye, Sula, Tar Baby, Jazz, Beloved, and Paradise) and that of others, among them, painter and collagist Romare Bearden, author Toni Cade Bambara, and theater director Peter Sellars. In all, The Source of Self-Regard is a luminous and essential addition to Toni Morrison's oeuvre.

The Source of Self-Regard Details

TitleThe Source of Self-Regard
Author
ReleaseFeb 12th, 2019
PublisherKnopf Publishing Group
ISBN-139780525521037
Rating
GenreWriting, Essays, Nonfiction, Feminism, Race, Cultural, African American

The Source of Self-Regard Review

  • Joshunda Sanders
    January 1, 1970
    This review was originally published for Bitch Media on February 12, 2019:https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/to...Toni Morrison began writing her seminal debut novel, The Bluest Eye, more than 40 years ago as a way to cure her own loneliness. “I never planned to be a writer,” she told Jane Bakerman in a 1978 interview in Black American Literature Forum. “I was in a place where there was nobody I could talk to and have real conversations with. And I think I was also very unhappy. So I wrote then, This review was originally published for Bitch Media on February 12, 2019:https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/to...Toni Morrison began writing her seminal debut novel, The Bluest Eye, more than 40 years ago as a way to cure her own loneliness. “I never planned to be a writer,” she told Jane Bakerman in a 1978 interview in Black American Literature Forum. “I was in a place where there was nobody I could talk to and have real conversations with. And I think I was also very unhappy. So I wrote then, for that reason. And then, after I had published, it was sort of a compulsive thing because it was a way of knowing, a way of thinking that I found really necessary.” At the time, Morrison, born Chloe Anthony Wofford, was a single mom living in Syracuse, New York, and working as a textbook editor for Random House. “In time, writing became a way to ‘order my experience,” she said, according to an 1987 annotated bibliography of her work. “It’s always seemed to me that Black people’s grace has been with what they do with language.”Morrison’s newest collection, The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches and Meditations, demonstrates the same pragmatic and spiritual vision that weaves throughout her award-winning novels and her prescient nonfiction. The title is typical Morrison: An enigmatic, subtle, and powerful proclamation that also invokes a question. What is the source of self-regard—for me and for her? “A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity,” she writes in what reads as the book’s sole prologue, “Peril.” It’s one of the many answers that Morrison offers within the book’s 368 pages.That the book is being released during Black History Month feels like a given, but the fact that is Morrison is turning 88 the week after indicates that this might be one of her last major works. While reading it, I was struck by the prospect of losing such an important writer, whose work—particularly cherished among Black women writers—is outlined in these pages. The Source of Self-Regard is divided into three sections that span four decades of Morrison’s previously published essays and speeches, so it would be impossible to write about each section without writing a book of my own. But a few essays and speeches, about the importance of protecting writers and artists who are working under an increasingly alarming amount of threats; what it means to be a foreigner; a media environment that exploits information as entertainment in what she referred to during the O.J. Simpson trial as an “age of spectacle;” and notes on her writing process, particularly resonated with me.The third section of the book, “God’s Language,” begins with the most beautiful piece of writing I have ever read—the eulogy Morrison delivered at James Baldwin’s funeral on December 8, 1987. It is also the closest glimpse we’ve had into Morrison’s personal relationships. Morrison lays her heart bare for a friend in a short poetic jubilee that’s reminiscent of Smokey Robinson’s recent speech at his childhood friend Aretha Franklin’s homegoing service.“Jimmy, there is too much to think about you, and much too much to feel,” she begins. “The difficulty is your life refuses summation—it always did—and invites contemplation instead. Like many of us left here, I thought I knew you. Now I discover that, in your company, it is myself I know. That is the astonishing gift of your art and your friendship: You gave us ourselves to think about, to cherish.” Morrison might as well be speaking about herself. For me and many other writers, Morrison demonstrates how to be in a world that’s committed to your destruction. “You gave me a language to dwell in—a gift so perfect it seems my own invention,” she continues.Throughout the book, Morrison reveals herself to be a teacher-student who is not just giving readers information that they’re expected to take in and regurgitate. Instead, she’s a “literary homegirl” (a phrase that she actually uses in the text). Referring to a friend as a “homegirl” implies a sense of ease in the presence of someone who knows and loves us, who evokes in us the joy, relaxation, comfort, and depth we typically only associate with home. Home is where we learn who we are, if not who we will become. Home is the starting point. In the title essay, delivered in Portland in 1992, Morrison explains how she viewed self-regard while writing her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved. Morrison’s lecture deeply resonates with me because it gives context for arguably her most famous work, which at its heart, offers Black women an artistic vision of our liberation.“In Beloved, I was interested in what contributed most significantly to a slave woman’s self-regard,” Morrison writes. “What was her self-esteem? What value did she place on herself? And I became convinced, and research supported my hunch, my intuition, that it was her identity as a mother, her ability to be and to remain exactly what the institution said she was not, that was important to her.” This is a subtle description of what we would now call resistance or subversive behavior—a Black woman reclaiming her identity from those who told her that she did not deserve to possess herself or her children.On the persistent gulf between Black and white feminism, Morrison takes on what would later come to be known as “intersectionality,” a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989—the same year she delivered her “Women, Race and Memory” lecture. Describing a 45-year-old veteran named Harriet Tubman who requested three years’ back pay from the federal government in 1868, Morrison details another persistent question for all feminists: “How can a woman be viewed and respected as a human being without becoming a male-like or male-dominated citizen?”The answer, she explains, aligns with what she’d said 30 years ago: Despite the fact that “in this country, women’s liberation flowered best in the soil prepared by Black liberation,” it’s also true that “chief among these reasons is our (women’s) own conscious and unconscious complicity with the forces that have kept sexism the oldest class oppression in the world.” So much of what we hear about oppression emphasizes placing agency in the hands of some external force. Morrison is saying that we can’t internalize sexism, misogyny, racism, or other oppressions and inflict it on others.Throughout The Source of Self-Regard I got the sense that Morrison has always been her own intellectual starting place. Perhaps it is this ease that allows a profundity and an erudite wit reserved for the sole Black woman in possession of both a Nobel Prize in Literature (awarded in 1993) and a Pulitzer Prize (1988). She describes, for instance, being her own first reader and editor, which goes against the common understanding that writers need the eyes of others in order to improve (and approve) their work. You might infer that she’s the source of her self-regard given that the book has no acknowledgments section. She writes as much, saying her oeuvre has been written in order to satisfy her own longings and curiosity.The Source of Self-Regard’s lucid, stunning prose offers not just a glimpse at a master novelist’s and intellectual’s inner workings, but lays bare the mantle which those of us who write might pick up. In her eulogy for Baldwin, she says: “Yours was a tenderness, a vulnerability that asked everything, expected everything and like the world’s own Merlin, provided us with the ways and means to deliver… ‘Our crown,’ you said, ‘has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do,’ you said, ‘is wear it.’ And we do, Jimmy. You crowned us.” With this book, the Queen of American Letters has again blessed us with a work that is profound, soaring, intimate, and gives us permission to become the source of our self-regard.
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  • B. P. Rinehart
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't think I would be reading this book so relatively soon. I've not read as much of her novels as I wanted and I wanted my own copy of this book over a library copy--this will definitely merit a re-read where I can sit with it a little more. So this will be my "abridged" overview.One thing that can be said about Toni Morrison is that she has no time for modesty and all the time for hubris. She's the athlete that trash-talks, but can back it up with skill: a literary Muhammad Ali (whose auto I didn't think I would be reading this book so relatively soon. I've not read as much of her novels as I wanted and I wanted my own copy of this book over a library copy--this will definitely merit a re-read where I can sit with it a little more. So this will be my "abridged" overview.One thing that can be said about Toni Morrison is that she has no time for modesty and all the time for hubris. She's the athlete that trash-talks, but can back it up with skill: a literary Muhammad Ali (whose autobiography The Greatest: My Own Story she edited). As interesting as it was to read her views on literature and her literary criticism, I was fascinated at how she configured her own personae. That added a very unusual dynamic to this book since most of this book was transcripts of speeches rather than actual essays. Some of these selections were amazing. I was intrigued by her thoughts on the so-called "canon wars" of the late 1980s-early 1990s, because she (or rather her work) was one of the big topics of it. One quote by her that caught my attention was "Canon building is empire building, canon defense is national defense." Lines and passages like that gave me food for thought, especially given how out-dated that controversy is now. That same section had a very powerful examination of Moby-Dick, or, the Whale, which has prepared me even more to read it. Her use of the Cinderella fable, Sula, and Beowulf to explain her own theory of feminism was very well-done. I know that Morrison does not identify as a card-carrying feminist (or at least she has said in interviews that she has problems with the term as we know it), but she seems to outline ideas and a philosophy that can easily be called feminism. For her, showing the importance how women relate to each other is very important. At the very least, it would be interesting to compare her ideas with that of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie--another Black woman novelist who very much identifies as a feminist (though not a womanist).In another passage Morrison says, "When I hear someone say, 'Truth is stranger than fiction,' I think that old chestnut is truer than we know, because it doesn't say that truth is truer than fiction; just that it's stranger, meaning that it's odd. It may be excessive, it may be more interesting, but the important thing is that it's random--and fiction is not random." (-- Both bold texts are mine.) This was like the key piece of thought that I'd been looking for for awhile now. This is something so profound, but not appreciated enough by writers or readers now-a-days. This fact is what separates myth from history. The site of memory in this book is something you really appreciate as you go deeper into your self as a reader. Lines like this quotation are found throughout the book.The only parts of this book I skipped over are the parts that reference books by her that I have not read yet. Morrison is her biggest fan so her primary reference for her literary criticism is her own work. This obvious means we get expert commentary by the author, but we also get spoiled or a very "guided" interpretation of the work. I wanted more examinations of her own contemporaries or works she liked (or hated), but one has to settle. I was fascinated by her ideas on writing, even though I don't think I agreed with half of it. It is always interesting to see the psyche of a particular writer, especially one who is this knowledgeable and...we'll say confident. Some of these speeches I'd already heard like her Nobel Lecture and eulogy of James Baldwin, but most of these were definitely "archive/lost tapes" material.I wish I could go in further, but I will have to reread the book with more time (and after reading more novels by Toni Morrison).
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  • Vivek Tejuja
    January 1, 1970
    Toni Morrison’s collection of essays don’t follow a timeline, neither it is linear, nor it is set in an order to make it easy for the reader. At first glance, it might even seem just a random collection of essays, speeches and meditations put together, however, it isn’t that. The book, “The Source of Self-Regard: Essays, Speeches, Meditations” is actually a book that speaks directly to the contemporary reader, and hence the order of essays. It goes headlong into speaking about issues at hand and Toni Morrison’s collection of essays don’t follow a timeline, neither it is linear, nor it is set in an order to make it easy for the reader. At first glance, it might even seem just a random collection of essays, speeches and meditations put together, however, it isn’t that. The book, “The Source of Self-Regard: Essays, Speeches, Meditations” is actually a book that speaks directly to the contemporary reader, and hence the order of essays. It goes headlong into speaking about issues at hand and who else better to address and them and show us the mirror than the queen herself, Ms. Morrison. The book is divided into two parts, with an interlude. The first part is titled, “The Foreigner’s Home”, the second, “God’s Language” and in-between is the interlude aptly titled, “Black Matter(s)”. This is the structure of the book – it is Ms. Morrison’s essays, speeches, and meditations on living, race, gender, language, and the current role of politics in America and in effect its relation to the world. It is also about the duty of the press and media and what is the role of the artist in all of this. As a reader, please be prepared to face harsh realities, question the world around you, and ponder over issues you never thought of earlier. Morrison doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind. The candour is not just for the sake of it. This collection is deeply personal as well. From why she became a writer (Faulkner and Women) to her thoughts on Beloved. At the same time, this collection as every reader will know is about race and what it means to be black in America, not only today but for decades and centuries and how has that played out for the black person. Toni Morrison writes with such elegance and dignity that you get caught up in her words, and then focus on the ideas, going back to the power of her prose. The interlude piece on Martin Luther King Jr. is not only searching but also mirrors the contemporary times. In the essay, Voyagers to the West, she speaks of the Scottish pioneer William Dunbar, and how he managed to build a fortune trading slaves, and how ironically his achievements are extoled till date. This is the kind of voice Morrison is all about – she knows exactly when to make the impact felt through her words and how deep. Morrison also speaks of writers and how they impact the mindset of readers. She speaks of how jazz brought American blacks a different kind of legitimacy. She also talks about why American and English writers could not speak for people of colour, hence the onus was only on black writers to do that. Literature then took a different form altogether, and its voice wasn’t restricted in a way is what I could make out of it. In her most poignant tribute to James Baldwin, the eulogy she delivered at Baldwin’s funeral on December 8, 1987, she honours his literature, his voice, and how he used language so tenderly. Morrison’s heart is almost laid bare in this – this tribute of sorts to a dear friend. It is almost as if you start becoming her friend, piece by piece. “Jimmy, there is too much to think about you, and much too much to feel,” she begins. “The difficulty is your life refuses summation—it always did—and invites contemplation instead. Like many of us left here, I thought I knew you. Now I discover that, in your company, it is myself I know. That is the astonishing gift of your art and your friendship: You gave us ourselves to think about, to cherish.” Toni Morrison’s writing is not only simple, but elegant to the bone. It is as though you are speaking with a friend, an elder, a teacher of sorts who is telling you about life and its ways. Throughout the book, Morrison speaks of the personal and the political and how they are intertwined. The first section, The Foreigner’s Home deals not only with race, but also with the question: What is Home? Where do you find it? What does it mean? At the same time, the section has essays wide ranging from “Literature and Public Life” and also her Nobel lecture. The third section of the book is my most favourite – the one where she speaks of language, authors, and the power of words. The essay on Beloved – how she came to write it and what it means to her, almost made me cry. Toni Morrison’s commentary on her own work – The Bluest Eye, Sula, Tar Baby, Jazz, Beloved, and Paradise are honest, and she understands the time and space she wrote them in and how they might be read differently today. Morrison’s works – fiction and nonfiction are always relatable. One doesn’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but the heart of the matter is the writing – from conception of plot to the way her sentences are constructed, every step is well-thought of and crafted. I am convinced that there is nothing Ms. Morrison cannot write about. It is almost as if she has to just enter the space and something extraordinary emerges out of her pen. Her voice we all know is unique and original, but that’s not what makes an impact. I think it is the emotional intensity attached to it that makes all the difference, every single time. The Source of Self-Regard as a collection of essays couldn’t have been compiled and published at a better time. We inhabit a world where people are extremely conflicted about issues of race, language, colour, and above all what entails to be human. I also would strongly recommend this book to every person who wants to understand home, race, the black person’s struggle, the place of literature in the world, and how it impacts us all. The Source of Self-Regard is illuminating, thought-provoking, and above all every piece has just been written from the heart.
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  • Will
    January 1, 1970
    A writer's life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity. page ix
  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    as i was reading this book of essays i kept coming back to the fact that toni Morrison is a true intellectual. i had not read or heard her eulogy for james baldwin. SO GOOD. i might have done some crying. recommended.
  • Tori Olson
    January 1, 1970
    I marked down almost every chapter as a reading that should be included into a syllabus or recommended to certain people. I am already planning on rereading this book within the month. Toni Morrison is a goddess and deserves all of the praise in the world for her graceful and honest words. Please put this book on the top of your reading list. You will not regret it.
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  • Mehrsa
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not really a fighting person, but I will fight anyone who pretends that Toni Morrison is not the greatest American writer of all time. Seriously, meet me outside. I read Beloved for the first time the summer after high school and it just stunned me. I had not believed that such craft and poetry were possible. I kept thinking--did she know that she was linking up all these images and words? Did she intend to create this beauty or was it just inspiration? I've never been the same and I've neve I'm not really a fighting person, but I will fight anyone who pretends that Toni Morrison is not the greatest American writer of all time. Seriously, meet me outside. I read Beloved for the first time the summer after high school and it just stunned me. I had not believed that such craft and poetry were possible. I kept thinking--did she know that she was linking up all these images and words? Did she intend to create this beauty or was it just inspiration? I've never been the same and I've never been so overcome by a book. I have since read everything Morrison has written several times. So I came to this book not as an objective reader. These essays are varied and have some repetitive themes, but the ones in here that I read twice are the ones where she talks about her craft. Turns out, she knew exactly what she was doing. She even did things that I didn't know she was doing. And she did it all on purpose. She introduces color into the story purposefully, language, she changes the perspective and steps outside the cannon of western lit to do something different. She's just absolutely brilliant. I read a lot of writing books (Liz GIlbert, Anne Lamott, and Stephen King, Mary Karr, etc come to mind) that give advice for writers and they're like--just show up and pump out words or wait for the muse or whatever. And I'm not writer of fiction, but my thought is always--but your writing is not good. How does a genius write? Like, I want to know how Nabakov wrote Lolita--and in this book, you have a genius explaining the craft and it's sort of just as I suspected it. You have to have a gift. You have to see the color around your characters--whatever that means. I mean, I can't even imagine Morrison's process because it is so many levels above what most people do. But I feel lucky to have been able to read her books all my life.
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  • GONZA
    January 1, 1970
    This can be considered the Summa theologica of Toni Morrison's opinion about almost everything, from politic, to racism, feminism, and so on. I would only recommend, as it is a collection of essays, not to read them all together, because sometimes, of course , there are repetitions, but I think it can be a very enlightening book.Questo volume potrebbe essere considerato la Summa theologica del pensiero di Toni Morrison, anche perché, essendo una collezione di saggi, lei parla a largo raggio prat This can be considered the Summa theologica of Toni Morrison's opinion about almost everything, from politic, to racism, feminism, and so on. I would only recommend, as it is a collection of essays, not to read them all together, because sometimes, of course , there are repetitions, but I think it can be a very enlightening book.Questo volume potrebbe essere considerato la Summa theologica del pensiero di Toni Morrison, anche perché, essendo una collezione di saggi, lei parla a largo raggio praticamente di tutto, dal razzismo alla politica e al femminismo. Consiglierei soltanto di non leggerlo tutto di seguito, perché puó sembrare a tratti ripetitivo, ma é sicuramente un libro profondo ed illuminante.THANKS EDELWEISS FOR THE PREVIEW!
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  • Allison Thwaites
    January 1, 1970
    You ever read a book that made you feel smart as hell? Hahaha! My vocabulary has expanded, my face is clear and my edges are being so respectful.What I liked - Toni Morrison just knows how to make you feel lost in her words. If I ever took one of her classes, I would never be bored. She speaks about art and language (and many other topics of course) in such an informative and riveting way. There were some essays in this book that made me want to photocopy them and hand them out to people to read You ever read a book that made you feel smart as hell? Hahaha! My vocabulary has expanded, my face is clear and my edges are being so respectful.What I liked - Toni Morrison just knows how to make you feel lost in her words. If I ever took one of her classes, I would never be bored. She speaks about art and language (and many other topics of course) in such an informative and riveting way. There were some essays in this book that made me want to photocopy them and hand them out to people to read just so we could discuss it. Some of my favourites included A Race in Mind, Moral Inhabitants, The Slavebody & the Blackbody, Women, Race & Memory & Cinderella's Stepsisters to name a few.I also liked the essays that gave me insight into Toni Morrison's novels. One of the main reasons I even bought this book was because with the exception of Beloved, I found myself not really getting into the rest of her work. I wasn't understanding it, wasn't connecting with it. I figured if I read her non-fiction, I'd be better able to understand her as a person, as a writer, what her motivations are and what her writing is about beyond the surface layer I wasn't getting past. There were essays where she broke down why she started her books the way she did, what certain lines meant, what inspired the stories, her writing process etc. It was very informative, almost like a reader's guide which I think will be very helpful when I read her work going forward (except A Mercy, she didn't explain that one so I guess I'll stay lost with that one). There were some downsides. Some of the essays/speeches were very long and sometimes tedious to read. There were a few where I did catch myself losing focus. Also, because this is a collection of Toni Morrison's writings spanning over decades, there were instances where things were repeated verbatim, like whole paragraphs that reappeared four-five times in various sections.Another thing to note is that not everything in this book is for everybody. I am not African American and I don't pretend to claim the struggle. I couldn't always follow along with the cultural and historical references but to me that's okay. Toni Morrison herself said in one of the included speeches, Goodbye to All That. Race, Surrogacy, and Farewell, "From the beginning, I claimed a territory by insisting on being identified as a black woman writer exclusively interested in facets of African American Culture. I made these unambiguous assertions to impose on all readers the visibility in and the necessity of African American culture to my work precisely in order to encourage a wider critical vocabulary than the one in which I was educated." Can't be mad at that.If you're interested in Toni Morrison outside of her fiction work, I highly recommend this book. The more you know. Also, have a dictionary handy :)
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  • Lekeisha The Booknerd
    January 1, 1970
    It took me nearly a month to read this collection of essays. It's not an easy book to read, as there is no timeline to follow. And many of the observations are repetitive, but are explored in different aspects. There are lots of subjects that Toni delves deep into: writing, race, politics, feminism...... Some more jarring than others, but it goes without saying that she tackles them with style and grace. Toni Morrison is one of the GOAT writers. I think ever person on this earth can learn a lot It took me nearly a month to read this collection of essays. It's not an easy book to read, as there is no timeline to follow. And many of the observations are repetitive, but are explored in different aspects. There are lots of subjects that Toni delves deep into: writing, race, politics, feminism...... Some more jarring than others, but it goes without saying that she tackles them with style and grace. Toni Morrison is one of the GOAT writers. I think ever person on this earth can learn a lot from this book, or any of her novels, really. Definitely recommend.
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  • Yanira
    January 1, 1970
    A few years ago, I made it all the way to the top of Bear Mountain in upstate NY. The minute I got up there, I felt like a sudden entrapment took hold of me. How could I be in one of the most open of places and feel so constricted. But then I recognized the feeling: pure overwhelming feelings. That is what Toni Morrison’s nonfiction does to my brain.
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  • Tony
    January 1, 1970
    This book requires, necessitates multiple readings.
  • kelly
    January 1, 1970
    Toni Morrison is, quite frankly, a genius. I'll keep this review short because this book is pretty much an entire mood. Herein you will find essays, writings, and speeches by Morrison from various points in her career over the last 20 years or so which detail her ideas on topics like politics, race, feminism, language, art, and writing. She also goes into depth with discussions of the construction of many of her famous novels--Sula, Beloved, and The Bluest Eye, to name a few. Much of the essays Toni Morrison is, quite frankly, a genius. I'll keep this review short because this book is pretty much an entire mood. Herein you will find essays, writings, and speeches by Morrison from various points in her career over the last 20 years or so which detail her ideas on topics like politics, race, feminism, language, art, and writing. She also goes into depth with discussions of the construction of many of her famous novels--Sula, Beloved, and The Bluest Eye, to name a few. Much of the essays here are somewhat repetitive, but that's perfectly fine because I don't think this is a book that's intended to be read linearly. This is more of a book that smart people place on their shelves or a handy reference for those who want to understand how a creative mind works.
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  • LaTrice McNeil-Smith
    January 1, 1970
    Beautiful and though provoking. It's like being inside of Toni's head and I loved it!
  • Terrance
    January 1, 1970
    Stunning collection of essays. I suggest it be read over time or even just as a reference when needed.
  • David Curry
    January 1, 1970
    I wish an editor or someone else had persuaded Toni Morrison to change the title of her selected essays, speeches and meditations: The Source of Self-Regard. Occasionally reading it in public places, I was embarrassed to think that anyone might assume I was reading the latest book intended for the bloated New Age and self-help section of an airport bookstore. That title isn’t helped by the boring front cover of the dust jacket, for which a designer is unaccountably credited even though the “desi I wish an editor or someone else had persuaded Toni Morrison to change the title of her selected essays, speeches and meditations: The Source of Self-Regard. Occasionally reading it in public places, I was embarrassed to think that anyone might assume I was reading the latest book intended for the bloated New Age and self-help section of an airport bookstore. That title isn’t helped by the boring front cover of the dust jacket, for which a designer is unaccountably credited even though the “design” features nothing but undistinguished typography.But, as our early teachers advised us, it would be a mistake to judge the book by its cover. If you can navigate Morrison’s unexpectedly academic and too often leaden style as an essayist, this volume does contain some gold and is distinguished by an uncommon moral seriousness in which nothing is exempt from questioning. In “The Price of Wealth, The Cost of Care,” a speech delivered at Vanderbilt University in 2013, Morrison takes on the holiest of holies:“I want to talk about the subject that is companion to each graduate just as it is on all campuses as well as communities all over the country, indeed the world. A subject that is an appropriate theme of a speech delivered to students during these provocative times of uncertainty.“The subject is money.“Whether we have the obligation to protect and stabilize what we already have and, perhaps, to increase it, or whether we have the task of reducing our debt in order to live a productive, fairly comfortable life, or whether our goal is to earn as much as possible — whatever our situation, money is the not-so-secret mistress of our lives. And like all mistresses, you certainly know, if she has not already seduced you, she is nevertheless on your mind. None of us can read a newspaper, watch a television show, or follow political debates without being inundated with the subject of wealth.”Morrison is just getting started, and by the time she’s finished, she has set a tall challenge for her young audience. She also does this in a 1988 commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College, breaking all the rules, steering clear of the customary commencement platitudes, and probably annoying some platitude-comfortable parents in her audience. (A truncated and rather lame 1979 commencement address at Barnard College, centering on the Cinderella fairy tale, must have left most of her audience feeling shortchanged.)In “WarTalk,” she asserts “a fundamental change in the concept of war — a not-so-secret conviction among various and sundry populations, both oppressed and privileged, that war is finally out of date; that it is truly the most inefficient method of achieving one’s (long-term) aims.” (“Not-so-secret” is somewhat of a tic with Morrison, and “various and sundry” is a tired expression, but the essay is strong enough to withstand minor shortcomings, and its firm dismissal of war is welcome.) The collection reprints Morrison’s 1993 Nobel Lecture in Literature, in which she ably laments forces debasing language in our time: “Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of the mindless media, whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy, or the commodity-driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law without ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek — it must be rejected, altered, and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind.” Shortly after that comes this: “stirring, memorializing language to mask the pity and waste of needless death.”If I were teaching a first-year college English course, I would assign Morrison’s essay “The Future of Time” and Wendell Berry’s essay “The Loss of the Future” and set young students to the trusty old exercise of comparing and contrasting, and I would look forward to hearing what they would have to say. I have to confess that when Morrison’s writing became too turgid, I occasionally found myself skimming. If you haven’t yet read any Morrison, I don’t recommend that you begin with the essays. Turn instead to her durable fiction, which is eminently worthy of that Nobel Prize. The five works from her 1973 second novel Sula through her 1987 novel Beloved are all richly imagined, exquisitely wrought and deeply affecting. It is as a creator of fiction that Morrison most fully realizes her intentions and, through the alchemy and cookery of art, ultimately transcends her intentions.
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  • Book2Dragon
    January 1, 1970
    If you are an Academic, especially if you are interested in African-American studies, you will possibly enjoy this book. I did not enjoy it, except for one or two of the essays and some passages. I labored through it, but was determined to finish. There is no doubt this woman is very intelligent and knowledgable, but entertaining she is not. I have not read any of her novels, so perhaps that is my fault.
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  • Ella
    January 1, 1970
    "Canon building is empire building, canon defense is national defense." These are my notes from reading this one: "Note to anyone reading this with a notebook or highlighter: If you start, you will either copy or highlight the entire book, so just accept and drink it in.""Ever find yourself slowing down on purpose so the book won't end? That's happening with this one. I realize all of this has been written or spoken elsewhere, but the feeling of "current" is ever-present. This is an urgent book "Canon building is empire building, canon defense is national defense." These are my notes from reading this one: "Note to anyone reading this with a notebook or highlighter: If you start, you will either copy or highlight the entire book, so just accept and drink it in.""Ever find yourself slowing down on purpose so the book won't end? That's happening with this one. I realize all of this has been written or spoken elsewhere, but the feeling of "current" is ever-present. This is an urgent book for anyone living in the world."I actually would recommend NOT reading this all at once, because it was a tad repetitive in this regard, and there is so much in this book that I will be getting my own to take time with, and mull over and think on. It's just chock full of big thoughts and ideas. It is mind-blowing on nearly every page, and should be the start of conversations at the very least across the US. Truly an excellent resource that is yet another book I want to own.I'm not kidding - if you are a person in the world, this book is probably for you.
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  • Silvia Cojocaru
    January 1, 1970
    I have not read many essays books, and I am not sorry to have read this one. I liked most of the essays, and particularly liked the literary criticism ones. But I found all of them thought provoking and well written. It was probably a mistake on my part to listen to the entire book in just a few days, as some parts are repetitive. I should have probably spread it out over a month or more, and I would have gotten more out of the book.
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  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    favorite essays: “the source of self-regard”, “the foreigner’s home”, “god’s language”, “black matter(s)”, “women, race, and memory”, “the individual artist”, “literature and public life”, “hard, true, and lasting”, james baldwin’s eulogy, “academic whispers”
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  • Sophie Rayton
    January 1, 1970
    Morrison is a very smart, thoughtful woman and writer. However, her writing is so heavily based on the black American experience that I found it hard to get a foothold given that I'm a white British woman. Important perspectives to be sure, but I'm likely not the target audience.
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  • lisa
    January 1, 1970
    This is an intense book, so it seems like it's best to read it when the mood strikes you for some Toni Morrison wisdom. The parts I read were amazing (of course) and I'm happy to have all these speeches, essays, etc. in one place.
  • Sara
    January 1, 1970
    Toni Morrison is obviously a brilliant writer, and I have loved many of her novels, but this compendium of essays and speeches isn’t great. She, not unexpectedly, reuses parts of speeches over and over again, and so it can get really repetitive and confusing (wait, did I read this before?). I love hearing her talk about her writing, and enjoyed her critiques of other literature, but I think her political essays are less effective. But overall it just felt like a disorganized jumble, not this wri Toni Morrison is obviously a brilliant writer, and I have loved many of her novels, but this compendium of essays and speeches isn’t great. She, not unexpectedly, reuses parts of speeches over and over again, and so it can get really repetitive and confusing (wait, did I read this before?). I love hearing her talk about her writing, and enjoyed her critiques of other literature, but I think her political essays are less effective. But overall it just felt like a disorganized jumble, not this writer at her best.
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  • Lee Bay
    January 1, 1970
    Great book! Though, much like most books of its kind, it is a little repetitive.However, still a great book with a lot of great messages. Love it.
  • Brenda
    January 1, 1970
    Heavy stuff beautifully rendered and thought provoking.
  • Andy Lillich
    January 1, 1970
    As a devoted fiction reader, I found these incisive, short non-fiction pieces to be pretty much over my head. So I took this one back to the library and brought home Pam Houston's new memoir, Deep Creek, which is much more in my non-fiction comfort zone.This is not to say that I didn't find The Source of Self-Regard to be most excellent - just that it was much more work than I care to do, now that my grad school days are well behand me. Perfect book - for the right reader.
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  • Carrie
    January 1, 1970
    Toni Morrison's brilliance speaks for itself, but this is a strangely edited - and perhaps overstuffed - collection. It's organized by theme, rather than chronologically, which could work well if it still included the dates and the occasions for which the speeches and essays were composed. For me, that information would have been helpful, as the context of some of the essays really does matter. Some of the pieces repurpose whole sections from an earlier work and might not have been necessary to Toni Morrison's brilliance speaks for itself, but this is a strangely edited - and perhaps overstuffed - collection. It's organized by theme, rather than chronologically, which could work well if it still included the dates and the occasions for which the speeches and essays were composed. For me, that information would have been helpful, as the context of some of the essays really does matter. Some of the pieces repurpose whole sections from an earlier work and might not have been necessary to include.
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  • Mary Foxe
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting collection from Toni Morrison. You can see the ideas that preoccupied her at different times in her life.
  • Mara Oliva
    January 1, 1970
    In this collection of essays, speeches & meditations spanning over four decades, Toni Morrison raises some fundamental questions & issues of our time, which sadly seem to have gone out of fashion in our consumerism driven society. Two themes dominate: #fear & #compassion. Fear (and everything that goes with it) generated by cruel & senseless racism. It is no secret that Morrison has made the fight against racism her life mission, and right so! From slavery to the Civil Rights mov In this collection of essays, speeches & meditations spanning over four decades, Toni Morrison raises some fundamental questions & issues of our time, which sadly seem to have gone out of fashion in our consumerism driven society. Two themes dominate: #fear & #compassion. Fear (and everything that goes with it) generated by cruel & senseless racism. It is no secret that Morrison has made the fight against racism her life mission, and right so! From slavery to the Civil Rights movement to the recent resurgence of white supremacists, Morrison’s skilful & unique use of words perfectly captures the painful & heartbreaking history of black people and makes us question human nature. How can we be so violent? How can we treat each other so cruelly? What happened to our souls? Compassion is expressed through her love of creative writing & #literature as the only forms of art that can help and can lead to a better future. Indeed, Morrison considers creativity as a fundamental requirement for #healing of the soul and survival of the human race. “For dreaming is not irresponsible; it is first order human business. It is not entertainment; it is work.” (P.72). From a personal point of view, her discussions of #education & #feminism have especially struck a chord with me. On page 54, Morrison writes: “inviting compassion into the bloodstream of an institution’s agenda or a scholar’s purpose is more than productive, more than civilising, more than ethical, more than humane, it is humanising.” As a disappointed university lecturer working in the British dysfunctional higher educational system, I have sadly found that compassion is a term often mocked by colleagues and students alike. These days, an education seems to be more about competition & earning more money, rather than personal development & expanding our hearts & minds. But if we take compassion out of the equation, what is left? Fear! How can we support the new generation coming from a place of fear? What values are we teaching them? Morrison does not identify herself as a #feminist. Like her, I struggle to find my place in this debate. That #misogyny is well & alive is unfortunately a sad reality. But I do agree with Morrison that oftentimes women are masters of self-sabotage! On page 111, she writes: “I am alarmed by the violence that women do to one another: professional #violence, competitive violence, emotional violence.” Me too! I have had that privilege & luck of meeting some truly inspiring women who understand the real meaning of #sisterhood & have become lifelong friends. But I have also met a few women who don’t miss a chance to parade their so-called “feminism” as long as another woman does not get ahead of them. They are also usually the first ones to drop their panties when a man enters a room. I call it “selective feminism.” Like Morrison, I would like to tell them to stop being afraid of competition & switch on their compassion. The Source of Self-Regard is a must read and gives much food for thought to those who are interested in the important issues of our time & are serious about self-improvement as a path to a #peaceful future.
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  • Maureen Forys
    January 1, 1970
    Toni Morrison is a genius and her thoughts on contemporary issues are invaluable. But this collection felt like strong standalone pieces rather than a cohesive work. Nothing had context (even the place and date of the speeches would have been great) and the same thoughts and paragraphs repeated over and over. I think it's totally normal for anyone to recycle parts of speeches when they're talking on the same topic multiple times, but it's odd it was so noticeable in this collection.I definitely Toni Morrison is a genius and her thoughts on contemporary issues are invaluable. But this collection felt like strong standalone pieces rather than a cohesive work. Nothing had context (even the place and date of the speeches would have been great) and the same thoughts and paragraphs repeated over and over. I think it's totally normal for anyone to recycle parts of speeches when they're talking on the same topic multiple times, but it's odd it was so noticeable in this collection.I definitely recommend reading this in pieces over a long course of time rather than front to back like I did.
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