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adieu… Nobel Prize-win­ning Author; Toni Mor­ri­son Dies at 88

Toni Mor­ri­son

Toni Mor­ri­son, the renowned author best known for the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning nov­el “Beloved” and for being the first African Amer­i­can woman to win the Nobel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture, died Mon­day night, her pub­li­cist and fam­i­ly con­firmed Tues­day.

Mor­ri­son had been at the Mon­te­fiore Med­ical Cen­ter in New York at the time of her death, accord­ing to her pub­li­cist. She was 88.

The cause of death was not imme­di­ate­ly clear, but her fam­i­ly said she had “a short ill­ness.”

She was an extreme­ly devot­ed moth­er, grand­moth­er, and aunt who rev­eled in being with her fam­i­ly and friends,” the Mor­ri­son fam­i­ly said in a state­ment. “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. Although her pass­ing rep­re­sents a tremen­dous loss, we are grate­ful she had a long, well lived life.”

While we would like to thank every­one who knew and loved her, per­son­al­ly or through her work, for their sup­port at this dif­fi­cult time, we ask for pri­va­cy as we mourn this loss to our fam­i­ly. We will share infor­ma­tion in the near future about how we will cel­e­brate Toni’s incred­i­ble life,” the state­ment added.

Toni Mor­ri­son

Morrison’s decades-long writ­ing career spanned from 1970 to 2019, includ­ing trea­sured nov­els “The Bluest Eye” and “Song of Solomon.” Her work delved into the black expe­ri­ence in Amer­i­ca, specif­i­cal­ly that of black women in the coun­try.

In “Beloved,” read­ers were intro­duced to Sethe, a woman haunt­ed by the mem­o­ries and trau­ma from her life as a slave, as well as by the ghost of her baby who she mur­dered to pro­tect from slav­ery.

Free­ing your­self was one thing; claim­ing own­er­ship of that freed self was anoth­er,” Sethe says in the nov­el.

Among her pletho­ra of acco­lades, she was award­ed a Pulitzer Prize for Fic­tion in 1988 for “Beloved” and the Nobel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture in 1993. Mor­ri­son was pre­sent­ed with the Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Free­dom by for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma in 2012.

Writer Toni Mor­ri­son accepts an awards at Lin­coln Center’s Avery Fish­er Hall, Nov. 5, 2007 in New York.

Toni Mor­ri­son was a nation­al trea­sure, as good a sto­ry­teller, as cap­ti­vat­ing, in per­son as she was on the page,” Oba­ma wrote on Twit­ter on Tues­day. “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.”

Her long­time edi­tor, Robert Got­tlieb, remem­bered Mor­ri­son in a state­ment as both “a great woman and a great writer.”

And I don’t know which I will miss more,” he added.

After grad­u­at­ing from Howard Uni­ver­si­ty in 1953, Mor­ri­son went on to break ground as the first African Amer­i­can edi­tor at Ran­dom House from 1967 to 1983, where she pub­lished work from black writ­ers includ­ing Toni Cade Bam­bara, Angela Davis, Gayl Jones and Hen­ry Dumas, among many oth­ers, accord­ing to the com­pa­ny.

Beyond writ­ing and edit­ing, she worked as a part-time teacher of cre­ative writ­ing and lit­er­a­ture at her alma mater as well as at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty, SUNY Pur­chase, Bard Col­lege, Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty, SUNY Albany and Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty.

Most recent­ly, she was the sub­ject of a new doc­u­men­tary, “Toni Mor­ri­son: The Pieces I Am.” Film­mak­er Tim­o­thy Green­field-Sanders spoke with Mor­ri­son on her lega­cy and impact on future writ­ers beyond what she left on paper for read­ers.

She has famous­ly said over the years she wants to be remem­bered as “trust­wor­thy.”

The inter­view­er asked, ‘How would you like to be remem­bered?’ I said I would like to be remem­bered as trust­wor­thy; as gen­er­ous,” Mor­ri­son told Essence in April 2015, remem­ber­ing an inter­view in Lon­don. “One of the girls up in the bal­cony said, ‘What are you talk­ing about? You are a famous writer and you want to be remem­bered as trust­wor­thy?’ She was furi­ous. And I real­ized she was think­ing about my pub­lic self and I was think­ing about how I want­ed my fam­i­ly to remem­ber me. That oth­er thing is all well and good. But there is Toni Mor­ri­son and there is Chloe [Morrison’s birth name]. Chloe is not inter­est­ed in those things.”

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