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“Your life is already artful—waiting, just waiting for you to make it art.”
– Toni Morrison
An inspirational figure and prolific writer who fearlessly voiced the African-American experience, Toni Morrison passed away on Monday, August 5, 2019 at the age of 88. She died in Montefiore Medical Center in New York due to complications from pneumonia.
Born in 1931 as Chloe Ardelia Wofford, Morrison was raised in an Ohio steel town called Lorain in a family that was devoted to black culture. Morrison’s own love for this culture is quite evident in her works. She wrote about the black American experience at a time when society was unjust and expressed her opinions on topics that were rarely talked upon. Her novels portrayed black characters as protagonists in a literary era when the world was seen through white people’s eyes. Morrison wrote in a style that she described to the New York Times in 2015 as “writing without the white gaze”.
Morrison’s narrative genius and emotionally intense novels won her various honours throughout her career. She became the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature when she was awarded the title in 1993. Her novel Beloved (1987), based on the true story of a slave who kills her own infant daughter to save her from a future in slavery, won her a Pulitzer Price for Fiction. She won the Coretta Scott King Award in 2005 for her historical work Remember: The Journey to School Integration (2004) that emphasized on the hardships of black students during the historical events of desegregation of the American school system. Morrison received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
Many are mourning Morrison’s death, expressing their gratitude towards the legacy she left behind. Television producer Shonda Rhimes tweeted: “She made me understand ‘writer’ was a fine profession. I grew up wanting to be only her. Dinner with her was a night I will never forget. Rest, Queen”.
Oprah Winfrey, who also acted as the lead character for the film adaptation of Beloved, said, “She was our conscience. Our seer. Our truth-teller. She was a magician with language, who understood the Power of words. She used them to roil us, to wake us, to educate us and help us grapple with our deepest wounds and try to comprehend them […] She was Empress-Supreme among writers. Long may her WORDS reign.”
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