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2019.09.23 In Memory of Toni Morrison
US author and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison passed away on August sixth of this year. According to family, she passed in a New York City hospital after a “short illness.” She was 88 years of age.

Morrison was born in Ohio in 1931. After graduating Howard University, she went on to earn her master’s in English literature from Cornell University and become the first African American editor at Random House in 1967. Her debut novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970, and she continued writing until her passing, publishing a total of 11 books in her lifetime. Her 1988 novel Beloved earned her both the Pulitzer and the American Book Award. In 1993 she won the Nobel prize for literature, making her the first African American woman to do so.

One after another, American writers have been expressing their condolences since news of Morrison’s passing was released. In fact, many Japanese have also been expressing their condolences, a testament to the deep interest the Japanese have in African and African American literature. This interest is thought to have begun in the 1950’s, when English literature scholar Kijima Hajime first translated works by African-American authors such as Langston Hughes and Amiri Baraka (known as LeRoi Jones at the time) into Japanese. Japanese works such as Oe Kenzaburo’s “Shiiku” (“Prize Stock”) and Kurahashi Yumiko’s Mikkoku (Whistle-blower) are a further testament to Japanese interest in the African American experience. These years also saw the US Civil Rights Movement, as well as the liberation of many African countries, all of which deepened Japanese interest in people of African descent and their literature.

Toni Morrison is an extremely popular writer in Japan, and many of her works have been translated to Japanese. Novels such as The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, and Tar Baby can all be found translated into Japanese on Amazon, a testament to the power of her works and their appeal to Japanese audiences. We in Japan celebrate the momentous work Toni Morrison accomplished in life and pray that she rests in swiss legendary diamond watches