Toni Morrison — who was nearly 40 when she published her first novel in 1970 — wasn’t an overnight success.
The author was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio.
In 1953, she graduated from Howard with a degree in English; she went on to earn a master’s from Cornell University in 1955. She began her storied career in letters as a college instructor at Texas Southern University and later at Howard, her alma mater.
In 1963, she took a position as a book editor at Random House based in Syracuse, New York, where she worked for 20 years before leaving in 1983. Morrison was editing the works of others when she published her first novel at age 39.
“I didn’t become interested in writing until I was about 30 years old,” she later said. “I didn’t really regard it as writing then, although I was putting words on paper. I thought of it as a very long, sustained reading process — except that I was the one producing the words.”
“The Bluest Eye,” about an impoverished and abused black girl who longs for blue eyes, was met with middling reviews, but gained prestige when it was added to the City University of New York curriculum.
“Required reading,” Morrison has said. “Therein lies the success.”
The novel has been challenged and called offensive over the years by parents in communities across the country who say the subject matter, which involves incest and violence, is too raw for young readers.