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Obama, Oprah and others react to Toni Morrison's death

Former U.S. president Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey​​​​​​​ and others took to social media to celebrate Nobel laureate and author Toni Morrison, who has died.

Publisher Alfred A. Knopf said novelist died Monday night in New York

Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison died Monday in New York after a short illness, her family said Tuesday. (Stephen Chernin/Reuters)

Former U.S. president Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and others took to social media to celebrate Nobel laureate and author Toni Morrison, who has died. 

The writer, who transformed modern literature, died Monday night at Montefiore Medical Center in New York after a brief illness, her family said Tuesday through publisher Alfred A. Knopf. She was 88.

Obama, who awarded Morrison the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, tweeted, "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."

Winfrey said that, "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."

On learning of her death, Louise Dennys, executive vice-president of Penguin Random House Canada, described "great sorrow."

Dennys, who published Morrison's Jazz novel in 1992, told CBC News, "and yet I feel today that she will always be with us … I mean her genius, her integrity.

Dennys, who last saw Morrison about five or six years ago in New York on her birthday, said "She wrote what we needed to know and she wrote what she wanted to write and she wrote it so beautifully, as well. Her poetic power was almost second to none. And that is part of the great beauty of reading her books."

On her website, Beyoncé quoted Morrison from the book, Song of Solomon, "'If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.' Rest in paradise."

Television producer Shonda Rhimes wrote on Twitter that "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." 

Read more reaction from others, including author Elizabeth Gilbert and politician Bernie Sanders:

"The passing of Toni Morrison is a mandate to all others in the field to fulfill the high calling that her work and her life demonstrated. Her words, her wisdom, her undying love and commitment to her people are forever engraved in the pages of history, but her artistic, remarkable literary voice will be deeply missed." — Rep. John Lewis, in a statement.

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"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." — author Elizabeth Gilbert, via Facebook.

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"Her words were like mirrors to our collective souls. Like pillows to cushion the blows. Like mothers to wrap us in love. Like friends to hold our hands and see us through the darkness. #RipToniMorrison (heart) you. May we lift her up in the light of goodness and hold her there." — Gabrielle Union, via Twitter.

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"'If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.' -Toni Morrison. Today we lost an American legend. May she rest in peace." — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, via Twitter.

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"RIP Toni Morrison. This is a devastating loss to the world of words, to our understanding of power and it's reach, to the cultivation of empathy, to rich, nuanced, elegant storytelling. Her work was a gift to every one who had the pleasure of reading her." — Roxane Gay, via Twitter.

 

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