Faith Matters

Reading Toni Morrison in Advent

A seasonal practice: cultivate the patient gaze to describe life as we find it.

The historian of religion Davíd Carrasco loves to tell the story of a conversation he once had with Toni Morrison when they were both teaching at Princeton Univer­sity. Morrison had asked for his assistance in researching Afro-Brazilian religions for a novel she was working on, and he remarked to her that one day he’d like to write something about the religious dimensions of her work. He told her he was fascinated by how she drew upon so many different religious traditions in her novels—African religions, Christianity, shamanism, and more.

“Yes,” she said, “you’re right, I do draw on those sources. But you left out the other part of the religion in my work.”

“What’s that?” he asked.