Meadhbh McHugh, THE IRISH TIMES
NEW YORK (The Irish Times) — ‘No one asked Tolstoy, ‘Will you ever write about a 12-year-old girl in Lorain, Ohio?’ ” says Toni Morrison, laughing at the absurdity, as she reclines in her Tribeca loft in downtown New York. She is recounting an incident where a UK journalist once asked if she would ever write about white people.
“I said, ‘Do you have any idea how racist that is? Would you ask a white person that?’ That’s because of the label: since you’re a ‘black’ writer, will you venture into the real world?”
Morrison, who was born Chloe Wofford, in Loraine, hates labels. She has acquired a few: black, feminist, womanist, magic realist, modernist, epic. Amid them all, she has fiercely, unapologetically and beautifully written of African-American life – which is to say American life – since her first novel, The Bluest Eye, appeared in 1970. It’s still a turbulent time in the US. When we meet, we discuss the recent Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of police brutality and shootings, but since then there have been the racially motivated murders in Charleston.