Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize winner and author of "Beloved," "Song of Solomon," and "God Help the Child," has passed away at 88.
Toni Morrison, whose novels chronicling the African American experience have earned international acclaim and the Nobel prize, has passed away at 88 years old.
The author was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio. A lover of the written word, she graduated Howard University with an English degree in 1953 and later earned a Masters from Cornell University in 1955.
From there, she taught English at both Howard and Texas Southern University before starting a position as a book editor at Random House, where she worked for 20 years.
Toni Morrison was 39 years old when her first book was published.
"I didn't become interested in writing until I was about 30 years old," she later said. "I didn't really regard it as writing then, although I was putting words on paper. I thought of it as a very long, sustained reading process — except that I was the one producing the words."
Her work drew acclaim for its depiction of the African American experience and the direct and sometimes brutally honest study of American history. "One can delight in her unique narrative technique, varying from book to book and developed independently, even though its roots stem from Faulkner and American writers from further south. The lasting impression is nevertheless sympathy, humanity, of the kind which is always based on profound humour," said the Nobel committee in announcing the award in 1993.
In 2012, President Barak Obama awarded the Presidental Medal of Freedom.
"I remember reading 'Song of Solomon' when I was a kid and not just trying to figure out how to write but also how to be and how to think," Obama said at the ceremony, referecing to Morrison's 1977 novel.
One of our nation's most celebrated novelists, Morrison is renowned for works such as "Song of Solomon," "Jazz" and "Beloved", for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988. When she became the first African-American woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1993, Morrison's citation captured her as an author "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality."
From the CNN Article
The author preferred to let her work speak for her, often appearing publicly as an inscrutable grand dame, reluctant to talk about personal affairs. However, writing, she said, was the one space where she really could be larger than life.
"All of my life is doing something for somebody else," Morrison told New York magazine in 2012. "Whether I'm being a good daughter, a good mother, a good wife, a good lover, a good teacher -- and that's all that. The only thing I do for me is writing. That's really the real free place where I don't have to answer."
Given that independence, it was perhaps ironic that she stuck with her married name on her books. ("Toni" was a high school nickname.) She'd used it for "The Bluest Eye" and later regretted it, she said.
"Wasn't that stupid?" she said. "I feel ruined!"
The people who know her best call her Chloe, she added.
"Chloe writes the books."