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The 84-year-old writer is one of literature’s most illustrious figures. She has written More than 25 works spanning six genres–including opera–and is credited with helping the careers of other African-American writers while she was an editor at Random House. Her writing, including her most recent novel, God Help the Child, centers on the complexities of race and the legacy of slavery in the U.S. Morrison, currently a professor emeritus at Princeton University, has remained a cultural voice. In 2012, Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Morrison’s age when her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published


Novels published to date


Morrison titles that appear on the American Library Association’s 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books list


Writers and critics who signed a 1988 letter protesting that Morrison had not yet received a National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize


Year Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved, which Oprah adapted and starred in on film 10 years later


Minutes in Morrison’s Grammy-nominated audiobook Who’s Got Game, which she recorded with her son Slade


Honorary degrees from academic institutions, including Harvard, Princeton, Oxford and the Sorbonne

This appears in the July 06, 2015 issue of TIME.

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