National Book Critics Circle Awardees for Fiction

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Song of Solomon (1977)

Written by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, a novel of large beauty and power, creates a magical world out of four generations of black life in America, a world we enter on the day of the birth of Macon Dead, Jr. (known as Milkman), son of the richest black family in a mid-western town; the day on which the lonely insurance man, Robert Smith, poised in blue silk wings, attempts to fly from a steeple of the hospital, a black Icarus looking homeward...

We see Milkman growing up in his father's money-haunted, death-haunted house with his silent sisters and strangely passive mother, beginning to move outward—through his profound love and combat with his friend Guitar...through Guitar's mad and loving commitment to the secret avengers called the Seven Days...through Milkman's exotic, imprisoning affair with his love-blind cousin, Hagar...and through his unconscious apprenticeship to his mystical Aunt Pilate, who saved his life before he was born.

And we follow him as he strikes out alone; moving first toward adventure and then—as the unspoken truth about his family and his own buried heritage announces itself—toward an adventurous and crucial embrace of life.

This is a novel that expresses, with passion, tenderness, and a magnificence of language, the mysterious primal essence of family bond and conflict, the feelings and experience of all people wanting, and striving, to be alive. (Copyright © Knopf/Random House. All rights reserved.)

Source:  Penguin Random House Company.

Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize- and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, editor and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue and richly detailed black characters. Among her best known novels are Sula, Song of Solomon and Beloved. Morrison has won nearly every book prize possible and has been awarded honorary degrees. Morrison received a B.A. in English in 1953 at Howard University. She earned a Master of Arts degree in English from Cornell University in 1955, for which she wrote a thesis on suicide in the works of William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf.

Morrison began writing fiction as part of an informal group of poets and writers at Howard who met to discuss their work. She went to one meeting with a short story about a black girl who longed to have blue eyes. She later developed the story as her first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970). 

In 1975, her novel Sula (1973) was nominated for the National Book Award. Her third novel, Song of Solomon (1977), brought her national attention. The book was a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the first novel by a black writer to be so chosen since Richard Wright's Native Son in 1940. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1981, she published her fourth novel, Tar Baby, where for the first time she describes interaction between black and white characters. Her picture appeared on the cover of the March 30, 1981 issue of the Newsweek magazine.

In 1987, Morrison's novel Beloved became a critical success. It won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the American Book Award. The New York Times Book Review named Beloved the best American novel published in the previous twenty-five years.

She worked at Random House for almost twenty years. As an editor, Morrison played a vital role in bringing black literature into the mainstream, editing books by authors such as Henry Dumas, Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Davis, and Gayl Jones. She taught in several school institutions like Yale University, Bard College and State University of New York. In 1993, Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was the eighth woman and the first black woman to do so.

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