The globally-celebrated and iconic novelist Toni Morisson died last night. The Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author had earned numerous honors and awards during her 88 years, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was probably most well known for her novel Beloved, which earned her the Pulitzer Prize for literature.
The breadth of her work spans decades. If you’re not acquainted, we compiled some highlights you should consider to get to know this American giant of literature. Morisson bloomed into national fame after winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon, a coming-of-age novel she published in 1977. A decade later, Beloved earned the Pulitzer and “moved her firmly into that venerable Canon, along with the likes of Faulkner and Woolf, with whom she was so often compared,” as Daily Beast contributor M. Yvonne Taylor notes. The book was also turned into a movie featuring Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, and Thandie Newton.
“My favorite remains Morrison’s first work, the one she wrote while raising her two small boys as a single mother and budding scholar: 1970’s The Bluest Eye,” Taylor wrote, adding, “when I read the story of Pecola Breedlove, a poor black girl in 1940s’ Lorain, Ohio (Morrison’s hometown), woefully neglected, severely abused, and nearly invisible, a girl who, along with her family and community, has swallowed whole the images and narratives of American society and believes herself to be hideously, irredeemably ugly, I saw myself.”
More recently, Morrison edited 2012’s Burn This Book: Notes on Literature and Engagement, a collection of essays exploring the meaning and impact of censorship. She published her last novel God Help the Child in 2015 and a collection of her work earlier in 2019: The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations.
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