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Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize-Winning Novelist, Dead at 88

Author best known for Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon

Jon Blistein Aug 06, 2019

Toni Morrison in New York City in 2008. Photo: Angela Radulescu/CC BY-SA 2.0

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Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist who told vivid stories about black life in America, especially the lives of black women, with stark strokes of magical realism, died Monday, the publishing house Penguin Random House confirmed. She was 88.

Morrison died Monday night at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York. A specific cause of death was not given, though Morrison’s family said she died following a “short illness.”

In a statement, Morrison’s family said, “It is with profound sadness we share that, following a short illness, our adored mother and grandmother, Toni Morrison, passed away peacefully last night surrounded by family and friends. She was an extremely devoted mother, grandmother, and aunt who reveled 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.  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.”

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Morrison published 11 novels over the course of her career, along with several books of non-fiction, scattered short stories, children’s books, a couple plays and an opera libretto. Her best known works include her debut novel, The Bluest Eye, 1977’s Song of Solomon and 1987’s Beloved, which is widely considered her masterpiece and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

In 1993, Morrison became the first black woman from any nation to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Upon awarding her the prize, the committee described Morrison as someone “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”

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