Celebrities and fans are mourning the death of celebrated novelist Toni Morrison.
Morrison, known for her novels "Beloved," "Song of Solomon," "Sula" and "The Bluest Eye," was the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She died Monday at age 88 in New York following a short illness, according to her family and publisher.
The Morrison family issued a statement via Morrison's publisher about her death, saying, "The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing. Although her passing represents a tremendous loss, we are grateful she had a long, well lived life."
Several prominent names remembered Morrison as an inspiration.
Oprah Winfrey took to Instagram to honor her close friend, sharing a photo of the two holding hands and smiling on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 1996.
"In the beginning was the Word," Winfrey wrote. "Toni Morrison took the word and turned it into a Song…of Solomon, of Sula, Beloved, Mercy, Paradise Love, and more.
"She was our conscience. Our seer. Our truth-teller," Winfrey continued. "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. It is exhilarating and life-enhancing every time I read and share her work."
"She was Empress-Supreme among writers," Winfrey wrote in conclusion. "Long may her WORDS reign!"
Former President Barack Obama shared a photo of the two smiling in the Oval Office.
"Time is no match for Toni Morrison," he wrote in a Facebook post. "In her writing, she sometimes toyed with it, warping and creasing it, bending it to her masterful will... Toni Morrison was a national treasure. Her writing was not just beautiful but meaningful — a challenge to our conscience and a call to greater empathy. She was as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page."
He continued: "And so even as Michelle and I mourn her loss and send our warmest sympathies to her family and friends, we know that her stories—that our stories—will always be with us, and with those who come after, and on and on, for all time."
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"Genius has moved on," Shonda Rhimes wrote on Instagram, adding in a tweet that Morrison "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."
Author Walter Mosley, who is also a producer on FX's "Snowfall," shared a tribute to his friend Morrison at the Television Critics Association Tuesday in Beverly Hills.
"The thing that was so wonderful about Toni, she was a very shy woman. So in public, she was magisterial," he said. "If you just got together with her … she was really pedestrian, very down home. She could change, according to what was most comfortable to her. I believe the most important thing about Toni’s work … she raised the black experience to the international level, but didn’t forget we were black people."
Gabrielle Union called Morrison's words "mirrors to our collective souls."
"Like pillows to cushion the blows," she continued. "Like mothers to wrap us in love. Like friends to hold our hands and see us through the darkness. #RipToniMorrison ❤️ you. May we lift her up in the light of goodness and hold her there."
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 ❤ you. May we lift her up in the light of goodness and hold her there.— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) August 6, 2019
"Aw man Toni Morrison taught me the word Rememory," tweeted Chance the Rapper. "RIP to a incredibly powerful and impactful woman."
Aw man Toni Morrison taught me the word Rememory. RIP to a incredibly powerful and impactful woman.— The Big Day out now (@chancetherapper) August 6, 2019
Author Roxane Gay called Morrison's death 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."
She added: "Her work was a gift to every one who had the pleasure of reading her."
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 (@rgay) August 6, 2019
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke shared one of Morrison's quotes: "You wanna fly, you got to give up the (expletive) that weighs you down."
He added: "A lesson for each of us. A lesson for our country. She may be gone, but her writing, her resolve, and her grace will live on forever."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi mourned the loss of a "storyteller with unmatched empathy, elegance and power. Toni Morrison’s belief that language is the 'measure of our lives' leaves an extraordinary, inspiring inheritance, and her beautiful writing will continue to be a blessing for generations to come."
Today, the world lost a storyteller of unmatched empathy, elegance and power. Toni Morrison’s belief that language is the “measure of our lives” leaves an extraordinary, inspiring inheritance, and her beautiful writing will continue to be a blessing for generations to come. pic.twitter.com/cc3st7x2lM— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 6, 2019
"So sad to hear of the passing of the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature," "Good Morning America" host Robin Roberts wrote on Instagram. "Her legacy will live on through those who were impacted by her powerful and unique voice."
"May she rest in power," wrote Billie Jean King, using the hashtag "RememberHerName."
"Rest now, and let us honor you as a nation eternally grateful for your contribution," George Takei tweeted.
"And flight of angels sing thee to thy rest..." wrote Don Cheadle, quoting Shakespeare.
Rep. Ilhan Omar shared a quote from Morrison, adding she is "holding all those touched by Toni Morrison in my heart today."
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) August 6, 2019
Holding all those touched by Toni Morrison in my heart today. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/2jkAvtaErK
"Toni Morrison was a towering intellect, a brilliant scribe of our nation’s complex stories, a heartbreaking journalist of our deepest desires, and a groundbreaking author who destroyed precepts, walls and those who dared underestimate her capacity," tweeted politician Stacey Abrams. "Rest well and in peace."
MSNBC host Joy Reid wrote that Morrison "made me fall in love with words."
"She used them with greater skill and artistry than anyone I've ever read," she added. "She was to writing what Aretha was to music. Those who were lucky enough to know or meet her I'm so sorry & so envious. She was everything."
Journalist Dan Rather tweeted lamenting "our American story" losing "a singular and courageous voice."
He added: "Toni Morrison had to overcome the founding prejudices of her nation to claim a rightful place among the greats of American letters. The brilliance of her mind and spirit will live on in her words. May she rest in peace."
Our American story has lost a singular and courageous voice. Toni Morrison had to overcome the founding prejudices of her nation to claim a rightful place among the greats of American letters. The brilliance of her mind and spirit will live on in her words. May she rest in peace.— Dan Rather (@DanRather) August 6, 2019
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Contributing: Charles Trepany, Kelly Lawler from Beverly Hills
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Toni Morrison: Oprah Winfrey mourns 'Empress-Supreme among writers'