The celebrated novelist Toni Morrison died Monday night, according to her publisher, Knopf. She was 88 years old. According to Knopf, the author died peacefully, surrounded by loved ones, following a “short illness.” Born Chloe Ardella Wofford, Morrison was best known for her critically acclaimed and best-selling novel Beloved, which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Among her other memorable and influential novels were Jazz (1992) and Paradise (1997); the three books make up a loose trilogy. Just after the last of them was published, Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first black woman of any nationality to do so. The Nobel Committee celebrated her as an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” By then, she had already written six novels; she would go on to write five more. Her latest, God Help the Child, was published in 2015. She wrote through the toughest of times, including the death of her son in 2010. “I stopped writing until I began to think, he would be really put out if he thought that he had caused me to stop,” Morrison told Interview magazine around the release of her ninth novel, Home, in 2012.
Before she was a world-renowned author, Morrison broke barriers as an editor for Random House, where she worked for 19 years, publishing a new generation of black writers, including Toni Cade Bambara, Gayl Jones, and Angela Davis. She was also the chair of humanities at Princeton, where she taught from 1989 to 2006.
“We die,” Morrison closed her Nobel Prize address. “That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”