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Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am


Featuring Toni Morrison, Farah Griffin, Angela Davis, Hilton Als, Sonia Sanchez, Walter Mosley, Oprah Winfrey, David Carrasco, Paula Giddings, Robert Gottlieb, Peter Sellars, Fran Lebowitz, Russell Banks and Richard Danielpour.

Directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 120 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Toni Morrison is a literary legend – on two different sides of the business. Everyone knows Morrison the author, Nobel Prize-winning writer of such best-sellers as Beloved, Jazz and Song of Solomon. Not everyone remembers however that she was also a huge part of the publishing industry from behind the scenes, working for years as an editor at Random House and playing a big part behind the scenes of some of the great books of the 20th century.

The Pieces I Am spends two hours speaking with Morrison, discussing her life, her struggles, her career(s) and her eventual status as a pioneering author of the black experience in America. Made up of a mixture of new interviews and archival ones with Morrison, as well as tributes by friends, co-workers and fans, it opens up the world of Toni Morrison and pays proper tribute to one of the most important literary voices of her generation.

Actually, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am is the third documentary produced on the writer, and perhaps the best of them. It shows the author, still sharp-witted and charming in her late 80s, giving a detailed and yet somewhat humble tour of her life and her legacy.

Smartly covering her work both as an author and also her substantial contributions behind the scenes in the book world, the movie makes a great case for her impressive pioneering African American artist.

She changed the landscape of writing, as is pointedly shown by quoting an early New York Times book review which said that the book was well-written, but Morrison needed to look beyond the black experience for her work to really take flight.

Morrison’s smart and hard-edged look at the lives of African Americans was revolutionary. No one had taken their lives and problems so seriously before. Toni Morrison changed the narrative.

The Pieces I Am doesn’t show a self-important artist, though. It shows a kind and smart and fun-loving woman. A mother and a friend. An author and a cheerleader for other artists. A woman who found her dreams and yet still feels blessed. A woman of the people.

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am is two hours well spent.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: June 21, 2019.

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