Where did the idea for Sula come from?
Oprah: Where does Sula come from? How did it start with you?
Toni: At the time, this is right after The Bluest Eye 1969–70, I got another idea for this book based on the fact that the feminist movement was just beginning and women were saying, "We have got to stop competing with each other. We should love one another. We should be friends with one another." And I thought, 'That's odd.' In my community, black women have always been other black women's best friends because there were no agencies. There was no one else to go to. When my mother said 'sister' about a neighbor, she really meant it. In church [when] they said 'my sister,' they meant it in this very, very profound way.
Oprah: Or even just in the culture where it's 'Sister so and so.'
Toni: Absolutely. So that's when I began to think about that particular kind of relationship. Suppose I had a bad girl, you know, who really didn't care. She cared about her friend, but she was not a conventional woman. And I got very attracted to the idea, particularly to Sula. ... I've always said I don't want to go to lunch with Sula, but honestly, she was totally mesmerizing throughout that book.
Oprah: Yes. And I think to be a woman living in the world and to have not read the book, then you have missed out on so much of what women have to share with each other, what women have to give each other.