Author and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison Dies at 88

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1993

Author Toni Morrison, who won the Nobel Prize in literature, has died, her publisher confirmed to PEOPLE. She was 88.

“We are profoundly sad to report that Toni Morrison has died at the age of eighty-eight,” a statement from Morrison’s publisher, Knopf, said, adding that the novelist died on Monday night at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

“Morrison’s novels were celebrated and embraced by booksellers, critics, educators, readers, and librarians,” the statement continued. “Her work also ignited controversy, notably in school districts that tried to ban her books. Few American writers won more awards for their books and writing.”

The Morrison family also issued a statement, saying: “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,” the family added.

Toni Morrison
Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty
Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2012. Leigh Vogel/WireImage
Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison. Todd Plitt/Getty

Morrison, born Chloe Ardelia Wofford, was best known for her novel Beloved, which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The book was also adapted into a film of the same name in 1998, starring Oprah Winfrey.

The author wrote critically acclaimed novels including The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Sula and Jazz. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1993, the first black woman to win the prize.

In 2012, President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Morrison also worked as an editor at Random House for over a decade, where she became the first female African-American editor in company history.

“Her work as an editor and publisher at Random House demonstrated a unique commitment to writers of color, and helped in opening industry doors to them,” the statement from Knopf read.

Morrison taught creative writing and literature at schools including Howard University, Yale University, and Princeton University, where she was the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities.

Her latest novel, God Help the Child, was published in 2015.

“We are born already, and we are going to die,” Morrison told PEOPLE in 1977. “You really have to do something you respect in between.”

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