Morrison, who died in New York City on Monday after a brief illness, was perhaps best known for Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 but had a long list of celebrated works also including poems and children’s books. Considered a pioneer, she wrote about the lives of African Americans, once saying, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”
Beloved was later brought to the big screen in 1998 by Oprah Winfrey, who appeared in the film with Danny Glover and Thandie Newton. Winfrey championed the writer, also making Song of Solomon her first book club pick back in The Oprah Winfrey Show days.
Morrison’s words touched many lives and the tributes from famous folks have been flowing in. Former President Obama — who has spoken of the impact Morrison’s Song of Solomon has had on him — shared a photo from when he presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 and called her a “national treasure.” He said it was a “gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while.”
Toni Morrison was a national treasure, as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page. Her writing was a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and our moral imagination. What a gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while.