There is honey in this land sweeter than any I know of, and I have cut cane in places where the dirt itself tasted like sugar, so that's saying a heap.

My sex life became sort of like Diet Coke—deceptively sweet minus nutrition.

Somewhere inside you is that free person I'm talking about. Locate her and let her do some good in the world.

Criticism as a form of knowledge is capable of robbing literature not only of its own implicit and explicit ideology but of its ideas as well; it can dismiss the difficult, arduous work writers do to make an art that becomes and remains part of and significant within a human landscape.

Don't nobody have to die if they don't want to. - Pilate.

No one ever talks about the moment you found that you were white. Or the moment you found out you were black. That's a profound revelation. The minute you find that out, something happens. You have to renegotiate everything.

Tough shit, buddy. Your tough shit...

Birth, life, and death― each took place on the hidden side of a leaf.

I said you. Take you, my daughter. Because I saw the tall man see you as a human child, not pieces of eight.

She told them that the only grace they could have was the grace they could imagine. That if they could not see it, they would not have it.

As long as your feet are under my table, you'll do in this house what you are told.

A voluntary act to fill empty hours had become intensive labor streaked with the bad feelings that ride the skin like pollen when too much about one's neighbors is known.

Not know it was hard;knowing it was harder.

You are my shaper and my world as well. It is done. No need to choose.

The desire, let alone the gesture,to meet her needs was good enough to loft her spirits to the place where she could take the next step: ask for some clarifying word; some advice about how to keep on with a brain greedy for news nobody could live with in a world happy to provide it.

But her brain was not interested in the future. Loaded with the past and hungry for more, it left her no room to imagine, let alone plan for, the next day.

Everything bad that ever happened to him happened because he couldn't read.

Shadrack began a struggle that was to last for twelve days, a struggle to order and focus experience. It had to do with making a place for fear as a way of controlling it.

Taught me a lesson I should have known all along. What you do to children matters. And they might never forget.

And no, they ain't in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don't love your mouth. You got to love it.

This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live.

Apparently he thought he deserved only to be loved--from a distance, though--and given what he wanted. And in return he would be . . . what? Pleasant? Generous? Maybe all he was really saying was: I am not responsible for your pain; share your happiness with me but not your unhappiness.

Because each had discovered years before that they were neither white nor male, and that all freedom and triumph was forbidden to them, they had set about creating something else to be.

Without wiping away the tears, taking a deep breath, or even bending his knees—he leaped. For now he knew what Shalimar knew: If you surrendered to the wind, you could ride it.

Black boys became criminalized. I was in constant dread for their lives, because they were targets everywhere. They still are.

Her heart kicked and an itchy burning in her throat made her swallow all her saliva away. She didn't know which way to go.

Mister was allowed to be and stay what he was. But I wasn't allowed to be and stay what I was [...] School teacher changed me. I was something else and that something else was less than a chicken sitting in the sun on a tub.

The freezing in hell that comes before the everlasting fire where sinners bubble and singe forever.

I sold my elegant blackness to all those childhood ghosts and now they pay me for it.

Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it, summon it, from even the most tragic of circumstances.

I welcomed the circling sharks but they avoided me as if knowing I preferred their teeth to the chains around my neck my waist my ankles.

A little bird'll be here with the morning. Oh? said the rose-petal lady. Tomorrow morning? That's the only morning coming. It can't be, the rose-petal lady said. It's too soon. No it ain't. Right on time.

My children are delightful people, whom I would love even if they weren't my children.

Social conversation was impossible for her because she could not lie.

For now he knew what Shalimar knew: If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.

A lot of black people believe that Jews in this country have become white. They behave like white people rather than Jewish people.

Suspended between the nastiness of life and the meanness of the dead, she couldn't get interested in leaving life or living it.

We never shape the world . . . the world shapes us.

No matter how hard we try to ignore it, the mind always knows truth and wants clarity.

We mistook violence for passion, indolence for leisure, and thought recklessness was freedom.

It's not about choosing somebody over her. It's about making space for somebody along with her.

Marriages performed within,' read the sign next to the coffeehouse door, underneath in small letters a verse that combined warning with a sales pitch: 'When lawless lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin.

You revel in the smoke that the words send up.

Sweet, crazy conversations full of half sentences, daydreams and misunderstandings more thrilling than understanding could ever be.

She was fierce in the presence of death, heroic even, as she was at no other time. Its threat gave her direction, clarity, audacity.

A twenty-year-old man so in love with his mother he gave up five years of Sabbaths just to see her sit down for a change.

The doctor raised the gun and pointed it at what in his fear ought to have been flaring nostrils, foaming lips, and the red-rimmed eyes of a savage. Instead he saw the quiet, even serene, face of a man not to be fooled with.

Maybe you think up North is way different from down South. Don't believe it and don't count on it. Custom is just as real as law and can be just as dangerous.

Lay my head on the railroad line. Train come along; pacify my mind.