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Toni Morrison, Pulitzer And Nobel Prize Winning Author, Dies At 88

Toni Morrison enjoyed critical and commercial success after her unique vision helped diversify the established literary canon.

Toni Morrison, Nobel laureate and author of works like Beloved, Song of Solomon and A Mercy, died on Monday at 88 years old. Morrison's career spanned six decades, in which she published 11 novels, five children's books, two plays, a song cycle, and an opera.

Morrison is widely considered one of the most accomplished and impactful writers in the history of American Literature, broadening the western literary canon, infamously known for consisting almost exclusively of old or dead white men. Morrison represented a powerful counterweight to the American literary establishment by imbuing it with the African-American experience. 

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@tonimorrisonfilmBorn on February 18, 1931, as Chloe Ardelia Wofford, she was the daughter of a homemaker and a shipyard welder who witnessed the worst effects of Southern racism as children, experiences that would then influence Morrison's work.

Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970, and The New York Times gave it a positive review, even though it was ignored by other media and critics. Morrison then worked as an editor at Random House, where she would encourage other black writers to do what she had done in her first novel (and would continue to do for the rest of her career): strip their literature of the white gaze.

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 “I’ve spent my entire life trying to make sure the white gaze was not the dominant one in any of my books,” she said in Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, a 2019 documentary.@tonimorrisonfilmHer next novel, Sula, came in 1973 and Song of Solomon , which helped her gain nationwide recognition, was published in 1977. In 1981, following the publication of Tar Baby, she was the first black woman on the cover of Newsweek since Zora Neale Hurston in 1954. But it was Beloved in 1988, a novel about a runaway slave who kills her daughter after being recaptured, that became an instant classic, staying on the bestsellers' list for 25 weeks and becoming required reading in schools almost immediately. For it, she was awarded the Pulitzer prize.

Her works often depict graphic violence. So much so, that at one point, her novel Paradise was banned from prisons in Texas out of fear that it would cause a riot.@tonimorrisonfilmMorrison began accumulating accolades in the 1990s. The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 helped her gain worldwide acclaim and by 2012 she received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. By then, Morrison had become outspoken regarding her political convictions, but she'll be best remembered for her contributions to the use of language. “We die,” said Morrison on her Nobel Prize address. “That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

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Having enjoyed critical and commercial success, Morrison passed on away at her New York City home at age 88. She leaves behind a legacy of language, a unique vision, and an articulated experience for years to come.

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