Review of A Crown of Stories: The Life and Language of Beloved Writer Toni Morrison

A Crown of Stories: The Life and Language of Beloved Writer Toni Morrison A Crown of Stories: The Life and Language of Beloved Writer Toni Morrison
by Carole Boston Weatherford; illus. by Khalif Tahir Thompson
Primary, Intermediate    Quill Tree/HarperCollins    48 pp.
4/24    9780062911032    $19.99

In an expressive second-person text addressed to her subject, Weatherford celebrates the life and legacy of the esteemed novelist, professor, and Nobel Laureate. Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison (1931–2019) falls under the “spell of the spoken word” at an early age. Weatherford emphasizes Morrison’s trailblazing firsts (first in her family to attend college, first Black senior editor in publishing, first Black woman Nobel Laureate), beginning with first grade: she is the only Black girl in her class, and “the only one who can read. All by yourself.” The act of listening is an organizing theme: listening to music and stories as a girl, “to your surroundings,” “to your heart,” to students and colleagues, to “overlooked and underrepresented” Black voices. When she moves to Washington, DC, to attend Howard University, Morrison becomes even more keenly aware of pervasive racial injustice, heeding “the call to conscience…vowing to write about and for Black people.” Thompson’s stunning artwork, rendered in “acrylic, oil paint, collage, handmade paper, and stencils on canvas board,” has a dignity that reflects Morrison’s stature in the literary world. The varied compositions are alive with texture and color, and a regal portrait of Morrison in the role of Queen Elizabeth I for a college theater production is especially powerful. Both the reverent art and the text provide an intimate glimpse into Morrison’s remarkable life story. An author’s note, a detailed timeline, and a bibliography are appended.

From the May/June 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Pauletta Brown Bracy
Pauletta Brown Bracy is professor of library science at North Carolina Central University. She is chair of the 2015-2017 Coretta Scott King Book Awards committee and serves on the 2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards committee.

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