By EW Staff
July 07, 2020 at 09:00 AM EDT
Credit: Melville House

The following is the introduction to Toni Morrison: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, written by poet (and Morrison's close friend) Nikki Giovanni. In her highly-fitting tribute, Giovanni melds poetry and prose to pay homage to Morrison's most pivotal books — The Bluest Eye, Sula, and more — and offer up memories of their relationship. The book, which offers a glimpse inside her career as a writer as well as in teaching and publishing, is on shelves today and is available for purchase


I wish I owned a restaurant then I could run Specials: Today Toni Morrison Stew. An exotic mix of tears and sympathy. Nothing grows except The Bluest Eye and a special shot of Pecola which flies over very quickly because no one can really embrace the fear and hatred. The best thing about The Bluest Eye special is the Marigolds. They didn’t flower but the seeds are there. Drop a few in the bowl and see what grows. Or doesn’t.

I also really recommend the Sula. The mixture of two girl friends who lose each other. It does not come with dessert but it can have hot bread. When the Nel is ready to be taken out of the oven that’s the best time to put the Sula in the refrigerator. Timing is everything with this dish. It has to balance the desire with the impossible. Sometimes the chef will put a bit of college in to mix with that wonderful hat. The hat is a lot of fun because whoever catches it gets a free Song of Solomon and a fresh glass of milk.

Of course we’d mix Jazz Belovedly with a movie and a talk or two. Let’s call it The Morrison Café. Vodka, though my preference is cheap champagne. And only bottled water.

If Toni’s home had been open to gourmets there would always be porgies frying. Yeah sure everyone thinks fried food is bad for your heart or something but how did the Black Americans get through slavery and segregation without catfish and chitlins? Porgies were a treat. There was a restaurant in the Village that sometimes had porgies and knowing Toni loved them I would go to New York and pick her up. It was more than a poet could actually afford but she was, after all, Toni Morrison. I had my town car take me up to her home and take us to the café. I still don’t know what we talked about but when dinner was over I would ride back to her house. She always said she could call her own town car but I knew my Grandmother would have a heavenly fit if I let Toni go home alone. So I rode up said Good Night and came back to Manhattan. She must have known poets are poorer than novelists but she also knew we both were southerners and there were rules.

I didn’t ever know the home that burned down but what I loved about the home on the Hudson was the Nobel Prize citation in the downstairs bathroom. I am fortunate to call Toni Morrison friend. Mostly neither of us had much to say.

There was always a comfortable silence when I visited her. My mother transitioned 24th June then my sister just after that on 5 August. I tried to do what any good daughter and sister would do and I think I got it done. But it was sad. One afternoon I was sitting at my desk just sort of being dismayed when I decided to call Toni. I probably talked more than ever and she was kind enough to listen. She finally said Nikki, Write. That’s all you can do. Write.

I wish I had a restaurant then I could also cook up a special Morrison Stew to help us all go through this. The title of this book is The Last Interview but there will never be a last interview with Toni. Her books live and talk to us. She could have said Read. But she said Write. And she is Right.

Related content: