In 2006, The New York Times Book Review assembled a committee of prominent writers, literary critics and editors to designate the best work of American fiction published in the previous 25 years. Their choice was Toni Morrison’s heartbreaking 1987 novel about slavery in America, Beloved. “Any other outcome would have been startling,” wrote critic A. O. Scott of the decision, comparing Morrison’s literary significance with “Faulkner, Melville, Hawthorne and Twain.” Beloved won her the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award; her body of work was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, and the list of her other highly prestigious honors in the US and abroad would take up most of this page of newsprint.
But in addition to being a writer for the ages, Morrison helped plenty of other black writers get published and taken seriously by critics during her 15 years at Random House, where she was the first black woman senior editor in the fiction department. She later went on to teach for 17 years at Princeton University.
A new film directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders titled Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am made a big splash at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and Upstate Films in Rhinebeck will give it a special screening on Saturday, July 13 at 1 p.m. On hand for a discussion, followed by a reception at the nearby Amsterdam Restaurant, will be Tommy Walker, the documentary’s producer, a short walk down the street. Admission to the screening, talk and reception costs $18 general admission, $15 for Upstate Films members. To purchase tickets in advance, visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4273766. To view a trailer for the film, visit https://upstatefilms.org/toni-morrison-the-pieces-i-am.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, Saturday, July 13, 1 p.m., $18/$15, Upstate Films, 6415 Montgomery St. (Rt. 9), Rhinebeck, (845) 876-2515, https://upstatefilms.org, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4273766