Author Toni Morrison, who was considered a pioneer and reigning giant of modern literature, passed away Monday night at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York, following a brief illness. She was 88 years old.

The death was announced by her publisher Alfred A. Knopf. A statement by her family said, “Toni Morrison passed away peacefully last night surrounded by family and friends. She was an extremely devoted mother, grandmother, and aunt who reveled in being with her family and friends. 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.”

Toni Morrison Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison photographed in New York City in 1979. Photo: Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

According to an article by AP, Morrison helped raise American multiculturalism to the world stage and helped uncensor her country’s past. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970, when she was 39 years old. Her most celebrated novel, Beloved, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 and was a finalist for the 1987 National Book Award. The novel spawned a film adaptation, starring nationally celebrated talk show host Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.

In 1993, Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making her the first black woman to receive the award. She also taught at Cornell University from 1997 to 2006, and held the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University from 1989 till her retirement in 2006.