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The Literary Community Reacts to Toni Morrison's Death

"She gifted us with language, with courage, and with tenderness."

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Toni Morrison, the groundbreaking author of Beloved and The Bluest Eye, died in New York City on Monday at the age of 88. The news was announced by her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf and confirmed by the New York Times. Morrison was one of the most important voices of the 20th and 21st centuries, a Pulitzer Prize winner and Nobel Laureate whose work explored African American identity, family, and the nature of art itself over her many-decade career. Her latest collection of essays and speeches, The Source of Self-Regard, was published in February.

Shortly after Morrison's passing was made public, the literary community, politicians, celebrities, and academics took to social media to celebrate the life of the extraordinary author. Below are a selection of those reactions, and we'll update as more information becomes available:

Nicola Yoon

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Barack Obama

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Oprah Winfrey

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Hanif Abdurraqib

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Roxane Gay

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Evette Dionne

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Aisha Saeed

George M. Johnson

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Elizabeth Gilbert

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Toni Morrison has passed away. My heart hurts. Her greatness was absolute. Her words changed worlds. Her work always belonged to the immortal, and her name will never be forgotten. I bow down today to this literary and moral giant. I was fortunate enough to meet her once — back in 1994, just after she had won the Nobel Prize. There are two things that I remember about that meeting. First, somebody asked her if she thought that her Nobel Prize was a gift from the universe, to make up for the pain she had recently suffered, from having her house burn down, and having lost all her papers. With simple power, she fixed the questioner with a strong gaze, and said: “The two events have nothing to do with each other. A lot of people have their homes burn down, and they are not rewarded with the Nobel Prize.” The other thing I remember is this: Somebody asked her what it felt like to get the phone call, saying that she had won the Nobel Prize. She smiled broadly and said, “I knew right away, as soon as the phone call came in, how I would respond. I knew that this was not the time to be humble. This was the time to have an enormous party, and to celebrate with everyone I loved...at someone else’s expense.” And then she burst out laughing. I will never forget the sheer joy and mightiness of that moment. How she took full ownership of her glory. How often do you hear a woman say, of her own achievement, “This is not the time to be humble”? She knew who she was. She knew WHAT she was. And she celebrated it. With great joy and power. Thank you, Toni Morrison, for what you gave us. We will forever celebrate you. (Photo by @tgs, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, whose recent collaborative documentary of Morrison, THE PIECES I AM, is a must-see.) Rest in glory, #tonimorrison

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Keith Boykin

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Imani Perry

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Celeste Ng

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Hari Kunza

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Vicky Mochama

We'll continue to add to this as more authors share their thoughts.


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