Toni Morrison, award-winning author of such acclaimed novels as Beloved, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, and A Mercy, died last night at age 88, her publisher confirmed.
In her long and celebrated career, Morrison wrote 11 novels and five children’s books; she also wrote for the stage, penning an opera and two plays. Beloved, arguably her most famous work, won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award in 1988; it later became a film in 1998 starring Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey, who co-produced the film. Morrison’s latest novel was God Help the Children, published in 2015.
“Everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it.”
In 1993 she received the Nobel Prize in Literature, making her the first black woman in history to win the award. She taught at Princeton University until she retired in 2006. In 2008, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2016, she received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction – just one of the many, many literary accolades the author received over the years.
“The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.”
“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it,” Morrison famously said. For years, she did exactly that – and inspired so many fellow authors in her wake.
“I think the greatest living novelist is Toni Morrison,” Alice Hoffman told our magazine in a 2017 interview. “I’ve been influenced by her beautiful work. I don’t think it’s influence so much as inspiration. I think that’s what happens when you find a great writer, and I think she’s a great writer. It’s inspirational more than anything else. It makes you want to write something beautiful and great yourself.”
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” —Toni Morrison