CNN- Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison died at the age of 88. The author passed away from an unknown illness in New York, Monday night.

She was one of the world’s most celebrated writers.

"The point of writing is to take what's common and estrange it, make it new again, and to take what's strange and familiarize it,” said Morrison in a previous interview.

Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931, Morrison had an interest in storytelling at a very young age.

Her father often told her African American folktales, something she would later weave into her work

Morrison attended both Howard and Cornell universities. She began teaching at the height of the civil rights movement. It was then Chloe became known as Toni Morrison, Toni a nickname and Morrison the last name of her ex-husband.

During her time teaching, she began sharing stories with a campus writing group. One of those stories became her first book-the bluest eye. Released in 1970 the novel was praised for its in-depth look at race and American beauty standards, but criticized for its explicit nature.

Morrison became more widely known in 1977 with "Song of Solomon." The book was a feature selection for the book of the month club- the first written by an African American in nearly 40 years to have that honor.

Morrison became known for characters who challenged views on race and gender.

"I don't describe any of my characters, I mean a little bit tall short man woman. But nobody knows what they look like and the reason is deliberate because I want you to do that,” said Morrison in a previous interview.

No novel had greater impact than "Beloved". Loosely based on a true story of a runaway slave -the book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

A decade later, Oprah Winfrey took the story to the silver screen, but the film tanked at the box office.

Morrison's prolific storytelling was acknowledged internationally. In 1993 she became the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature. The same year she nearly lost it all in a fire on Christmas day. Only a portion of her manuscripts survived, but tragedy struck again Christmas of 2010. Her son, Slade died of pancreatic cancer. The death weighed heavily on Morrison and she didn't write a sentence for months.

Toni Morrison left an indelible mark on literature spanning over five decades. While presenting her with presidential Medal of Freedom president Obama said this:

"Toni Morrison’s prose brings us that kind of moral and emotional intensity that few writers ever attempt."

The Morrison family released a statement Tuesday saying Morrison passed away at the Montefiore medical center in New York. Her family says she was a beloved mother and grandmother.