Beloved by Toni Morrison is Hay Festival's Book of the Month for September. First published in 1987 (the year of the first Hay Festival), it's an enduring masterpiece, told with heart-stopping clarity by one of the world's greatest ever storytellers. Here, we round-up some of our favourite Toni Morrison quotes from her books, Hay Festival appearances and essays through the years.

13 of the wisest Toni Morrison quotes

"Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined" - Beloved (1987)

"This world is interesting, and it’s difficult … and happiness? Don’t settle for that. There’s much, much more" - speaking at Hay Festival (2014)

"I never asked Tolstoy to write for me, a little colored girl in Lorain, Ohio. I never asked [James] Joyce not to mention Catholicism or the world of Dublin. Never. And I don't know why I should be asked to explain your life to you… If I tried to write a universal novel, it would be water" - Conversations With Toni Morrison (1994)

"If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it" - speaking at the New York Public Library (2013).

"There is really nothing more to say - except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how" - The Bluest Eye (1969)

"Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another" - Beloved (1987)

"Make up a story. Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created" - Nobel Prize for Literature Lecture (1993)

"Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and the light. Don't tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear's caul" - Nobel Prize for Literature Lecture (1993)

"I don’t understand pornography. It’s like nobody has any imagination anymore" - speaking at Hay Festival (2014)

"It is sheer good fortune to miss somebody long before they leave you" - Sula (1973)

"I don't think a female running a house is a problem, a broken family. It's perceived as one because of the notion that a head is a man" - Conversations With Toni Morrison (1994)

"Me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow" - Beloved (1987)

"You are your best thing" - Beloved (1987)


Beloved is Hay Festival's Book of the Month for September, available online now, or from all good bookshops and libraries.

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. She is the author of many novels, including The Bluest Eye, Beloved (made into a major film), Paradise and Love. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize for her fiction. She appeared at Hay Festival to talk about the iconic text and her career in 2014.