In a Jan. 26 column, I explained why Yale needs to teach more of Toni Morrison. Chief among a whole host of reasons is that Morrison is more influential than many dead white men whose writing no longer bears any significance to current events. Milton needs to disappear into the most remote filing cabinet in Sterling. Donne’s poetry should evaporate into thin, New Haven air and never touch Connecticut soil again. And Shakespeare should be subject to the most prodigious book burning in history, perhaps even orchestrated by the Republican Party. A book burning that will erase the playwright’s name from textbooks and render him a nonissue in the eyes of critics. 

In this vein, let me pitch three new classes that can teach Toni Morrison. 

The first is “Magical Realism through Morrison.” As the name implies, this class covers the magical realism present in Morrison’s books. It can also, at times, delve into the prose of Isabelle Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, two Latine writers known for implementing magical realism in their stories.

Here is a case study: take a church setting. There is a Kentucky Baptist church, green grass, a white picket fence, a gray sky with rain, a pastor sitting on a bench and a faint sun. All of a sudden, the sun crashes on the pastor. But there’s a hidden reason for the sun falling. It adds meaning to the book. Maybe the pastor is really a sinner. Or maybe the pastor wants to commit a crime in the future. That’s magical realism. 

Magical realism enhances a fictional book in ways so profound that they become inarticulable. Putting fantastical thinking into prose, for one, can boost the prose’s theme. When an insurance agent “flies” from the roof of a building in Ohio in “Song of Solomon,” that agent is a tool to explain the motif of flight in the book — flight from family — running away from things, as opposed to finding oneself from within. Professor Sarah Mahurin GRD ’11 is qualified to teach this course, given her extremely well-written 2011 dissertation on migration and oscillation in the modern American novel. Mahurin’s track record of incorporating African American literature into Yale’s intellectual environment is storied, as is her reputation for standing up for students in troubled crises and supporting emotional issues as heavy as those weaved into some of Morrison’s work. 

The second class is “Morrison: Singularity in Character.” This class is half a writing workshop and half a seminar. In the first half of the course, students will read enough of Morrison’s material to learn what it’s like to only write about one character, one identity, one race, one gender or one ethnicity. Morrison wrote only about African American folk, and that was for a reason: to show the oppressor what it was like to be oppressed. 

When authors choose to include just one type of person in their book and make all of their characters belong to one community, they are purposely excluding other communities, and for good reason. That exclusion subconsciously influences the reader. The reader starts to think that the characters being written about carry great power, perhaps more power than they are realistically assigned in society, by horrible norms. Only speaking of one type of person flouts said norms. 

The latter half of the class is a workshop. Students write a 4,000-word short story in which they only include one kind of character in their story. Perhaps they’ll choose aliens, astronauts or desperate housewives. Then the writer — and eventually the reader — will fully understand the power involved in writing a single perspective. At first, writing something singular feels backward, but upon second glance, it’s revolutionary in nature. Visiting Professor Natalie Diaz is qualified to teach this course. As a MacArthur fellow and Pulitzer Prize winner, she can relate to Morrison’s accolades and prose. She has the creative gift that would be necessary to teach a workshop like this. 

The third class is “Toni Morrison’s Canon.” This is a general lecture course on all of Morrison’s work. It’s high time that Yale teaches a course solely focused on the famed author. Besides teaching all of her prized novels, the course must teach her personal history and her career at Random House, Cornell and Princeton. The class must put equal weight on all of her books, and not, as I would, just illuminate “Song of Solomon” and “Beloved.” All should be equally loved and appreciated. This class should be available to anyone interested: any student ripe for learning. Professor Daphne Brooks should lead this course. She is already the professor at Yale who teaches the most Morrison material. This class should inadvertently emphasize one thing: that dead, white, crusty male authors don’t tackle the more important issues that Morrison and her other contemporaries tackle, although a few like William Faulkner also adeptly fill Morrison’s niche. Faulkner, indeed, did push idiosyncratic themes for his society’s time, and on occasion wrote about race. 

Yale is no stranger to institutional mistakes. It has committed many. Not teaching enough of Ms. Morrison is a mistake that I will highlight at every turn of my post-graduate, irrelevant life in Washington, D.C. Teach more Morrison, or more columns and personal conversations with the above-mentioned faculty will follow.

ISAAC AMEND graduated in 2017 from Timothy Dwight College. He is a transgender man and was featured in National Geographic’s “Gender Revolution” documentary. In his free time, he is a columnist for the Washington Blade. He also serves on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Contact him at