On December 11th, The Center for Fiction, at a gala awards dinner at the Cunard Building in New York City, awarded Toni Morrison their inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Fiction. Nearly 500 guests, including writers, editors, friends of the arts, and members of the Toni Morrison Society, attended the event. Erroll McDonald, editor at Random House and Chair of the Center for Fiction Board indicated in his remarks why Ms. Morrison was chosen as the inaugural recipient of this award: “The Inaugural Lifetime of Excellence in Fiction Award will be given to a living genius of imaginative prose, of any kind, that has had a lasting impact on the culture and whose influence is evermore about to be. The award will not be given [by the Center for Fiction] routinely every year but only when it hears the siren song call of necessity as it did when it decided to recognize Toni Morrison as its first honoree. Morrison, he continued, is arguably the most celebrated and revered writer in the world…. She has long ago proven that she is an indisputably unique and essential presence in the American literary cannon.” In her absence, Mr. McDonald accepted the award on Ms. Morrison’s behalf. He conveyed her thanks and her “deepest appreciation for [the] passionate embrace of her work.” Society members attending the event included Edwidge Danticat, Maryemma Graham, Frazier O’Leary, Evelyn Schrieber, and A. J. Verdell attended the event.

Ms. Oprah Winfrey formally presented the award to Toni Morrison. See her introduction here.

photos by Lisa Pacino