Toni Morrison knew how to work. In the course of her singular career, the Ohio-born writer produced eleven novels, nine children’s books, and two plays. She composed poetry, essays, New Yorker articles—even a libretto. Collecting prizes became almost a vocation unto itself—the Nobel, for literature; a Pulitzer, for “Beloved”; a Presidential Medal of Freedom, to name just a few.
But Morrison was also acquainted with other kinds of labor. In “The Work You Do, the Person You Are,” published in 2017, the writer recounts one of her first paid jobs: domestic work for “Her,” an unnamed woman in a wealthier neighborhood. As the young Morrison settles into her role, her relationship with her employer changes, and so does her sense of herself. “Little by little, I got better at cleaning Her house—good enough to be given more to do, much more,” she recalls. “I wanted to refuse, or at least to complain, but I was afraid She would fire me, and I would lose the freedom the dollar gave me, as well as the standing I had at home.” A conversation between Morrison and her father proves helpful; his advice, passed down to us, is simple but profound. It clearly served his daughter well.
Teaching Literature and working with young adults my role as a coach has been in a nutshell …
Become Who You Are!
This excerpt from New York Classics underlines my approach:
There are challenges in life, but success can only be achieved by hard work and efforts, not by complaints and whinges.