At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don’t need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens — that letting go — you let go because you can.

Tar Baby (1981)

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More from Toni Morrison

I remember a very important lesson that my father gave me when I was twelve or thirteen. He said, “You know, today I welded a perfect seam and I signed my name to it.” And I said, “But, Daddy, no one’s going to see it!” And he said, “Yeah, but I know it’s there.” So when I was working in kitchens, I did good work.

As quoted in the New York Times Magazine (11 September 1994)

In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.

The Guardian (29 January 1992)

How soon country people forget. When they fall in love with a city it is forever, and it is like forever. As though there never was a time when they didn’t love it. The minute they arrive at the train station or get off the ferry and glimpse the wide streets and the wasteful lamps lighting them, they know they are born for it. There, in a city, they are not so much new as themselves: their stronger, riskier selves.

Jazz (1991)

You need intelligence, and you need to look. You need a gaze, a wide gaze, penetrating and roving — that’s what’s useful for art.

Interview with Don Swaim (1987)

Women’s rights is not only an abstraction, a cause; it is also a personal affair. It is not only about “us”; it is also about me and you. Just the two of us.

Commencement address at Barnard College (May 1979)