Toni Morrison listens to Mexicos Carlos Monsivais during the Julio Cortazar professorship conference at the Guadalajara's University in Guadalajara City, Mexico. Picture: AP
Publisher Alfred A Knopf says Morrison died on Monday night at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. She was 88.

The cause of death is still unknown.

She was the first black woman to receive the Nobel literature prize, awarded in 1993. The Swedish academy hailed her use of language and her "visionary force".

Her novel "Beloved," in which a mother makes a tragic choice to murder her baby to save the girl from slavery, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988.

Morrison's eleventh and final novel is "God Help the Child" and she recently starred a documentary called "Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am" which was released in June. 

In The Washington Post review of the documentary, writer Alan Zilberman shared his thoughts of Morrison in the film and said: " Morrison never shied away from depicting institutional cruelty or sexuality, which is why such novels as 'The Bluest Eye' (1970) are still, in some circles, controversial. The writer is aware of her critics, including colleagues who dismissed her Nobel as political correctness, but that only seems to have made her stronger. By steeling herself to her own purpose as writer, she makes her detractors seem all the more out of step. (It's probably intentional.)

"Morrison, at 88, is as clear-eyed and sharp as ever. What's most surprising about her interviews is not her candor, but her humour, revealed, as she speaks, in a way that makes you want to lean closer. (Her gifts as a storyteller are not just on the page.)"

AP/The Washington Post