Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison died Monday night at the age of 88, her publisher Knopf told The Washington Post. Known for such novels as The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, Morrison was frequently described as being "the most important living American author."
One of just two American women to ever win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the only African American to do so, Morrison published her eleventh and most recent novel, God Help the Child, in 2015. She wrote her first, The Bluest Eye, at the age of 39, often getting up during the earliest hours of the morning to write before her children would wake up.
Morrison was often quick to comment on current politics, famously calling President Bill Clinton the "first black president" in 1998. She was also an outspoken critic of President Trump, writing for The New Yorker after the 2016 election that "many white voters — both the poorly educated and the well educated — embraced the shame and fear sowed by Donald Trump." A film celebrating Morrison's literary and cultural importance, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, was directed by her longtime friend Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and released earlier this summer.
Oprah Winfrey was long one of Morrison's biggest champions, starring as the main character in a 1998 adaptation of Beloved and selecting four of Morrison's novels in the span of six years for her massively popular book club. "It's impossible to actually imagine the American literary landscape without a Toni Morrison," Winfrey said during a 2018 Center for Fiction gala in honor of the author's lifetime achievement award. "She is our conscience, she is our seer, she is our truth-teller."