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Toni Morrison, One of the Most Decorated American Authors in History...

Nobel Prize–winning writer Toni Morrison has died at the age of 88, according to a press release on Tuesday from her publisher, Knopf. No cause of death was immediately provided.

Known for her bracing and kaleidoscopic novels that examined black life in America, Morrison is one of the most decorated authors in American history, having won a Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Awards’ Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Humanities Medal, Kennedy Center honors, and the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993.

Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, on February 18, 1931, Morrison was one of four children. In 1953 she graduated from Howard University with a bachelor’s in English. She was the first female African American editor hired by Random House, where she worked from 1967 to 1983 and edited projects by Angela Davis, Huey P. Newton, and Toni Cade Bambara. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was released in 1970 to little fanfare, though it eventually became a fixture for teachers of literature and African American studies. Throughout her life she wrote 11 novels—including Sula, Song of Solomon, Jazz, Paradise, and 2015’s God Help the Child—in addition to children’s books, plays, and nine works of nonfiction, including The Source of Self-Regard, a collection released this February.

She counted many famous readers among her fans, including Oprah Winfrey, who starred in the 1998 film adaptation of Morrison’s book Beloved, and former president Barack Obama,who gave Morrison the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2012.

In recent years her public appearances dwindled, though she did appear in a documentary about her life, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, which premiered in June 2019.

“Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names,” Morrison said in her 1993 Nobel Prize speech, which was delivered partly as a parable about an old woman whose “reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question.” She continued, “Language alone is meditation.”

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