The death has been announced of Toni Morrison, the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

Morrison, who was 88, passed away after a short illness, her family said in a statement.

"Although her passing represents a tremendous loss, we are grateful she had a long, well lived life," they added.

Ohio-born Morrison was best known for her 1987 book Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into a 1998 film starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. 

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Beloved and Morrison's follow-up books, Jazz and Paradise, are referred to as The Beloved Trilogy, chronicling African American history and life.  

A former teacher, Morrison's literary career began as an editor before she decided to become a writer herself. Her debut novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970.  

She was honoured with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.

She received France's Légion d'Honneur in 2010 and was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by her friend, US President Barack Obama, in 2012.  

Morrison's most recent book, God Help the Child, was published in 2015.

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Tributes have been paid to the late author on social media.

The official Twitter feed of the Nobel Prize said she was "one of the most powerful and influential literary forces of our time" while American politician Stacey Abrams hailed her as "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".