Toni Morrison, the 1993 Nobel laureate in literature, whose work explored black identity in America and in particular the experience of black women, died Monday at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, her publisher, Alfred A Knopf, said in a statement. She was 88.
The first African American woman to win the Nobel in literature, Morrison was the author of several novels, children’s books and essays. Among them were celebrated works like “Song of Solomon,” which received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977, and “Beloved,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.
Morrison was one of the rare American authors whose books were both critical and commercial successes. Her novels appeared regularly on The New York Times best-seller list, were featured multiple times on Oprah Winfrey’s book club and were the subject of myriad critical studies. A longtime faculty member at Princeton University, Morrison lectured widely and was seen often on television.
In awarding the Nobel to Morrison, the Swedish Academy cited her “novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import,” through which she “gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”
Morrison animated that reality in a style resembling that of no other writer in English. Her prose, often luminous and incantatory, rings with the cadences of black oral tradition. Her plots are dreamlike and nonlinear, spooling backward and forward in time as though characters bring the entire weight of history to bear on their every act.