Toni Morrison, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Of Beloved, Dies Aged 88

She was the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Nobel literature laureate Toni Morrison has died, her publisher has confirmed.

Morrison, who was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2012, was 88 when she passed away.

Paying tribute to the author on Twitter, Obama wrote: “Toni Morrison was a national treasure, as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page. Her writing was a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and our moral imagination. What a gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while”.

Paul Bogaards, a spokesman for the publishing company Alfred A Knopf, announced the death, stating Morrison died on Monday night in New York after a brief illness.

Author Toni Morrison has died aged 88, her publisher has confirmed
Author Toni Morrison has died aged 88, her publisher has confirmed

“Toni Morrison passed away peacefully last night surrounded by family and friends,” Morrison’s family said in a statement through the publisher. “She was an extremely devoted mother, grandmother, and aunt who revelled in being with her family and friends. The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing.”

Morrison was best known for her 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved, later adapted into a 1998 film starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. The novel was set during the US Civil War and based on the true story of a woman who killed her 2-year-old daughter so she would not become a slave.

The woman was captured before she could kill herself and the child’s ghost, known as Beloved, visits her mother.

It was part of a trilogy that Morrison said looked at love through the perspective of black history. Jazz, published in 1992, was about a love triangle during the Harlem Renaissance in New York in the 1920s, and the third book, Paradise, published in 1997, told of women in a small, predominantly black town.

In 1993, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first black woman to receive the honour.

She was honoured with the lifetime achievement award from the PEN American Centre in 2016.

Her admirers ranged from college students and housewives to Obama, Bill Clinton, whom the author called “our first black president”; and Oprah Winfrey, who helped expand Morrison’s readership. Morrison shared those high opinions, repeatedly labelling one of her novels, Love, as “perfect” and rejecting the idea that artistic achievement called for quiet modesty.

“Maya Angelou helped me without her knowing it,” Morrison said during a 1998 interview. “When she was writing her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, I was an editor at Random House. She was having such a good time, and she never said, ‘Who me? My little book?’

“I decided that ... winning the [Nobel] prize was fabulous,” Morrison added. “Nobody was going to take that and make it into something else. I felt representational. I felt American. I felt Ohioan. I felt blacker than ever. I felt more woman than ever. I felt all of that, and put all of that together and went out and had a good time.”

Tributes to Morrison’s work are pouring in from the literary world:

RIP Toni Morrison. This is a devastating loss to the world of words, to our understanding of power and it’s reach, to the cultivation of empathy, to rich, nuanced, elegant storytelling. Her work was a gift to every one who had the pleasure of reading her.

— roxane gay (@rgay) August 6, 2019

"If you can only be tall because somebody is on their knees, then you have a serious problem. And my feeling is white people have a very, very serious problem, and they should start thinking about what they can do about it.”

Rest In Power Toni

— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) August 6, 2019

“We die,” Morrison closed her Nobel Prize address. “That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

- I am devastated. But what a gift she was. 💔

Toni Morrison Dead at 88

— Erica L. Green (@EricaLG) August 6, 2019

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