Toni Morrison, author and Nobel laureate, dies at 88

Toni Morrison, author and Nobel laureate, speaks during a news conference to announce a $100 million donation to the New York Public Library (NYPL) by Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Blackstone Group LP, in New York. $100 million is the largest ever guaranteed donation to a New York cultural organization. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images)

Toni Morrison, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who illuminated the joys and agonies of black American life through breathtakingly vital works like Beloved, Song of Solomon and A Mercy, died on Monday night her publisher Knopf confirmed. She was 88 years old.

Over her six-decade career, she wrote 11 novels, five children’s books, two plays, a song cycle and an opera. She served as an editor and professor, mentoring generations of young writers of color. After being largely ignored as a writer for a decade in the ‘70s, Morrison went on to win accolade after accolade, from the Nobel Prize in Literature to the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

Morrison widened the nation’s literary canon, serving as its conscience through trying times and establishing herself as the keeper of its marginalized histories. Through her inventive turns of phrase, graceful incorporation of African-American vernacular, textured character portraits, sharp historical gaze and tragic plot turns, she is one of the most accomplished and impactful writers in the history of American literature.

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