Patricia Andujo with novelist A.J. Verdelle
Patricia Andujo with novelist A.J. Verdelle

Literary Wisdom: Author Inspires APU Professor

by Abigail E. Peck

Reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison captivated Patricia Andujo, Ph.D., as an undergraduate student. The novel resonated deep within her as an African-American female and infused her life experiences with literary wisdom. That encounter led Andujo to read all 11 books in Morrison’s collection and develop great admiration for the Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Now 27 years later an associate professor in the Department of English at Azusa Pacific University, Andujo accepted an invitation to participate in the Seventh Biennial Conference of the Toni Morrison Society in New York this summer. There she met the beloved author and realized a long-held dream.

Andujo also dialogued with scholars, who shared her passion for Morrison’s work. The conference, centered on the theme, “Toni Morrison and Her Role as Editor,” deepened her knowledge of the iconic writer and enabled her to incorporate new material into her English 488 class, Significant Authors, which is a course entirely dedicated to Morrison and her body of work.

As a principal discussant at the conference, Andujo’s topic highlighted The Black Book and related it to the current era of digital media. The Black Book, is a collection of artifacts telling the story of the African-American experience. Andujo prepared for leading the discussion by examining this work. She drew upon her own knowledge of the book given little has been written about it.

“We discussed the advantages and challenges of accurately documenting history in an era where much of public knowledge is captured via video cameras,” said Andujo. “We also discussed our responsibility of continuing The Black Book legacy and our hopes of producing a volume two in the form of digital media.”

Andujo connected with Morrison and critically acclaimed novelist A.J. Verdelle, author of The Good Negress, a book included in college courses nationwide. Verdelle who has taught at several universities, including Princeton, encouraged Andujo as an educator.

“The most meaningful moments came from informal conversations that I had with conference participants,” said Andujo. “I made connections with several scholars in the field of African-American studies, and I've been able to maintain ongoing dialogue with them, which has been invaluable.”

Given the impact of Morrison’s work on her life, Andujo now seeks to ignite the same journey of discovery, learning, and excitement in her students, especially other women of color and emerging scholars.

“When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” — Toni Morrison

Abigail E. Peck '18 is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a public relations major and leadership minor.