All paradises, all utopias are designed by who is not there, by the people who are not allowed in.
You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down.
We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.
As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.
Race is the least reliable information you can have about someone. It's real information, but it tells you next to nothing.
And she had nothing to fall back on; not maleness, not whiteness, not ladyhood, not anything. And out of profound desolation of her reality, she may very well have invented herself.
The peacock jumped onto the hood of the Buick and once more spread its tail, sending the flashy Buick into oblivion.
A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves a special kind of double.
Knowing that she would hate him long and well filled her with pleasant anticipation, like when you know you are going to fall in love with someone and you wait for the happy signs.
Both of those conditions (my own awareness of being a native of a country and an alien in it) are of interest to me as a writer, and I'd like to talk about that expected and perhaps inevitable sense of separatedeness from the culture that pervades the country I live in.
My first-born. All I can remember of her is how she loved the burned bottom of bread. Can you beat that? Eight children and that's all I remember.
God take what He would, she said. And He did, and He did, and He did and then gave her Halle who gave her freedom when it didn't mean a thing.
In time the whole family perked up like Sesame Street puppets, hoping that cheer, if worked at hard enough, could sugar the living and quiet the dead.
There is no such thing as race. None. There is just a human race -- scientifically, anthropologically. Racism is a construct, a social construct... it has a social function, racism.
That anybody white could take your whole self for anything that came to mind. Not just work, kill, or maim you, but dirty you so bad you forgot who you were and couldn't think it up. And though she and others lived through and got over it, she could never let it happen to her own.
The righteous look every Negro learned to recognize along with his ma'am's tit. Like a flag hoisted, this righteousness telegraphed and announced the faggot, the whip, the fist, the lie, long before it went public.
An editor is like a priest or a psychiatrist; if you get the wrong one then you are better off alone.
The language must be careful and must appear effortless. It must not sweat. It must suggest and be provocative at the same time.
Let me tell you something. A man ain't a goddamn ax. Chopping, hacking, busting every goddamn minute of the day. Things get to him. Things he can't chop down because they're inside.
The thrill that came with each blow was wonderfully familiar. Unable to stop and unwilling to, Frank kept going even though the big man was unconscious. The women stopped clawing each other and pulled at Frank's collar.
I can't explain inspiration. A writer is either compelled to write or not. And if I waited for inspiration I wouldn't really be a writer.
But her brain was not interested in the future. Loaded with the past and hungry for more, it left her no room to imagine, let alone plan for, the next day.
My puzzlement used to be 'why is the Lone Ranger' called 'lone' if he is always with Tonto. Now, I see that given the racial and metaphorical nature of the relationship, he is able to be understood as 'alone' precisely because of Tonto. Without him, he would be, I suppose, simply 'Ranger'.
Maybe it hadn't been a community, but it had been a place. Now there weren't any places left, just separate houses with separate televisions and separate televisions and less and less dropping by.
If you can only be tall because someone else is on their knees, then you have serious problem. And white people have a very, very serious problem.
Evil is just sort of ultimately boring. The good thing is just complicated. It's more provocative to me and more stimulating to me.
There is really nothing more to say -- except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.
There's a contract that I make between myself, the author, and the reader. I have to figure out how to give the reader certain powers of recognition, or his own knowledge, his own feelings, but I provide them, so we're working together.
Every Saturday morning, first thing before breakfast, his parents held conferences with their children requiring them to answer two questions put to each of them: 1. What have you learned that is true (and how do you know)? 2. What problem do you have?
We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola's father had dropped his seeds in his own plot of black dirt. Our Innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair.
Sitting on the train to Atlanta, Frank suddenly realized that those memories, powerful as they were, did not crush him anymore or throw him into paralyzing despair. He could recall every detail, every sorrow, without needing alcohol to steady him. Was this the fruit of sobriety?
Like Guitar in Son of Solomon, and Son in Tar Baby, he believed that harmony could never exist between the races.
I don't work. I keep telling people I'm unemployed. And I don't wash dishes, and I don't wash clothes, and I don't clean my house. Somebody else does that.
Too much tail. All that jewelry weighs it down. Like vanity. Can't nobody fly with all that shit. Wanna fly, you gotta give up the shit that weighs you down.
Amy dragged her eyes over Sethe's face as though she would never give out so confidential a piece of information as that to a perfect stranger.
Tell us what it is to be a woman so that we may know what it is to be a man. What moves at the margin. What it is to have no home in this place. To be set adrift from the one you knew. What it is to live at the edge of towns that cannot bear your company.
I know it's trash: just another story made up to scare wicked females and correct unruly children. But it's all I have. I know I need something else. Something better. Like a story that shows how brazen women can take a good man down. I can hum to that.
I'm interested in the way in which the past affects the present and I think that if we understand a good deal more about history, we automatically understand a great more about contemporary life.
This is really skin privilege, the ranking of color in terms of its closeness to white people or white-skinned people and its devaluation according to how dark one is and the impact that has on people who are dedicated to the privileges of certain levels of skin color.
The formula for creative writing in high school or college is write what you know. And I said they don't know nothing. Imagine something. Do you know what it's like to be a Madame in Paris, when you're too old to have any clients. No, you don't. I don't either. Write about it.
Language can never 'pin down' slavery, genocide, war. Nor should it yearn for the arrogance to be able to do so. Its force, its felicity, is in its reach toward the ineffable.
We read about how Ajax and Achilles will die for each other, but very little about the friendship of women.
Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it, summon it, from even the most tragic of circumstances.
Anything I have ever learned of any consequence, I have learned from Black people. I have never been bored by any Black person, ever.
Obama is creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom ... He is the man for this time.
If you take racism away from certain people -- I mean, vitriolic racism as well as the sort of social racist -- if you take that away, they may have to face something really terrible, misery, self-misery, and deep pain about who they are.
Pain. I seem to have an affection, a kind of sweettooth for it. Bolts of lightning, little rivulets of thunder. And I the eye of the storm.
For the mouths of her children quickly forgot the taste of her nipples, and years ago they had begun to look past her face into the nearest stretch of sky.
The hopelessness that comes from knowing too little and feeling too much (so brittle, so dry he is in danger of the reverse: feeling nothing and knowing everything).
Home is memory, home is your history, home is where you work. Some people want to abandon it and become truly local. But the questions are all there.
Most of our lives are spent in little towns, little towns all throughout the country. That's where we live. And that's where the juices come from and that's where we made it, not made it in terms of success but made who we are.
And in the night, when my coughing was dry and tough, feet padded into my room, hands repinned the flannel, readjusted the quilt, and rested a moment on my forehead. So when I think of Autumn, I think of someone with hands who does not want me to die.
Florens would sigh then, her head on lina's shoulder and when sleep came the little girl's smiel lingered. mother hunger -- to be one or have one -- both of them were reeling from that longing which, lina knes, remained alive, traveling to the bone.
Jealousy we understood and thought natural... But envy was a strange, new feeling for us. And all the time we knew that Maureen Peal was not the Enemy and not worthy of such intense hatred. The Thing to fear was the Thing that made her beautiful, and not us.
Beginning 'Beloved' with numerals rather than spelled out numbers, it was my intention to give the house an identity separate from the street or even the city.
Books ARE a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.
Racism will disappear when it's no longer profitable, and no longer psychologically useful. And when that happens, it'll be gone. But at the moment, people make a lot of money off of it, pro and con.
When I went into the publishing industry, many women talked about the difficulty they had in persuading their families to let them go to college. They educated the boys, and the girls had to struggle.
Slave life; freed life -- everyday was a test and a trial. Nothing could be counted on in a world where even you were a solution you were a problem.
I really think the range of emotions and perceptions I have had access to as a black person and as a female person are greater than those of people who are neither.... So it seems to me that my world did not shrink because I was a black female writer. It just got bigger.