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Nobel laureate and 'Beloved' author Toni Morrison dies at 88

Key Points
  • Morrison's 1987 novel "Beloved" earned her a Pulitzer Prize, and President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
  • "She was a great woman and a great writer, and I don't know which I will miss more," says Robert Gottlieb, Morrison's longtime editor at Knopf.
  • Morrison worked as an editor at Alfred A. Knopf and became one of the biggest champions of minority voices in American literature.
American writer Toni Morrison on September 21, 2012 in Paris, France.
Ulf Anderson | Gamma-Rapho | Getty Images

Toni Morrison, the Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning author who wrote of the African American experience in her writings, has died at age 88.

She died Monday night at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, her family said in a statement.

Morrison, a novelist, essayist and educator, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Her 1987 novel "Beloved" earned her a Pulitzer Prize.

"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," the Morrison family said. "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," the family statement added.

Morrison published her first book in 1970 and wrote 10 more novels and several nonfiction books throughout her life. She also worked as an editor at Alfred A. Knopf and became one of the biggest champions of minority voices in American literature. She published works from prominent African Americans including Gayl Jones, Henry Dumas and Muhammad Ali.

President Barack Obama awarded Morrison the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, saying at the ceremony, "Toni Morrison's prose brings us that kind of moral and emotional intensity that few writers ever attempt."

Morrison taught at several colleges and universities, including Howard University — a historically black university in Washington — as well as Yale, Rutgers and Princeton, where she served as the Robert F. Goheen chair in the humanities.

"She was a great woman and a great writer, and I don't know which I will miss more," Robert Gottlieb, Morrison's longtime editor at Knopf, said in a statement.

Morrison's books often stirred controversy, with some communities attempting to ban them from public collections. Three of her novels — including "Beloved," which involves the murder of a child and references to sexual assault — were listed among the 100 most challenged books from 2000 to 2009 by the American Library Association.

Two of her other novels — "The Bluest Eye" (1970) and "Song of Solomon" (1977) — also were on the list. 

"I can think of few writers in American letters who wrote with more humanity or with more love for language than Toni," said Sonny Mehta, chairman of Knopf, which published most of Morrison's books. "Her narratives and mesmerizing prose have made an indelible mark on our culture."