Clip | Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am - Toni Morrison On Writing Without the “White Gaze”

In this excerpt from Toni Morrison: The Pieces I AmToni Morrison talks about writing without the “white gaze.” She says, “I have spent my entire writing life trying to make sure that the white gaze was not the dominant one in any of my books.” A film by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.
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- When you read early reviews of Toni's work, those early sympathetic liberal reviewers, and I remember one of them about Sula, and the reviewer says, 'She's got a great talent.

'One day, she won't limit it to 'only writing about black people.'

Like really, it's limiting for her to write about black people?

Like, no one says that when, you know, an Irish writer writes about Irish people.

You know, it's only limiting when you write about black people.

(upbeat music) - [Narrator] 'In spite of its richness 'and its thorough originality, one continually feels 'its narrowness, its refusal to brim over 'into the world outside its provincial setting.'

'Toni Morrison is far too talented to remain 'only a marvelous recorder of the black side 'of provincial American life.'

'If she is to maintain the large and serious audience 'she deserves, she is going to have to address 'a riskier contemporary reality.'

- I have had reviews in the past that have accused me of not writing about white people.

I remember a review of Sula in which the reviewer said, 'One day, she,' meaning me, 'will have to face up 'to the real responsibilities, and get mature, 'and write about the real confrontation 'for black people, which is white people.'

As though our lives have no meaning and no depth without the white gaze, and I have spent my entire writing life trying to make sure that the white gaze was not the dominant one in any of my books.

- Toni Morrison's project resides precisely in the effort to discredit the notion that this white male gaze must be omnipresent.