US author Toni Morrison, whose 1987 novel “Beloved” about a runaway slave won a Pulitzer Prize and contributed to a body of work that made her the first black woman to be presented the Nobel Prize in Literature, has died at the age of 88, her publisher said.
Paul Bogaards, a spokesman for the publishing company Alfred A. Knopf, announced the death but did not provide an immediate cause. The Washington Post said she died on Monday at a New York hospital.
Morrison was a commercial as well as critical success, drawing praise for writing in a vivid, lyrical style while assessing issues of race, gender and love in American society.
“Beloved” was set during the US Civil War and based on the true story of Sethe, a woman who killed her 2-year-old daughter to spare her from slavery. The woman was captured before she could kill herself and the child’s ghost visits her mother.
Morrison told NEA Arts magazine in 2015 that she had already written a third of the book before deciding to bring in the ghost to address the morality of whether the mother was right to kill the child.
The New York Times called the death scene “an event so brutal and disturbing that it appears to warp time before and after into a single, unwavering line of fate. It will destroy one family’s dream of safety and freedom; it will haunt an entire community for generations and … it will reverberate in readers’ minds long after they have finished this book.”
The book was made into a movie starring Oprah Winfrey, who co-produced it, and Danny Glover. Winfrey was one of Morrison’s biggest fans and featured four of her books in the influential book club portion of her daytime talk show.
The novel was part of a trilogy that Morrison said looked at love through the perspective of black history. “Jazz,” published in 1992, was about a love triangle during the Harlem Renaissance in New York in the 1920s, and the third book, “Paradise,” published in 1997, told of women in a small, predominantly black town.