WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 29:  Novelist Toni Morrison is presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. President Barack Obama during an East Room event May 29, 2012 at the White House in Washington, DC.  The Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Obama: Toni Morrison's 'distinct and inclusive' voice
01:23 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

Former President Barack Obama on Tuesday honored the life and legacy of author Toni Morrison, who died Monday night at the age of 88.

“Toni Morrison was a national treasure, as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page,” Obama wrote in a tweet. “Her writing was a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and our moral imagination. What a gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while.”

Morrison, the author of seminal works of literature on the black experience such as “Beloved,” “Song of Solomon” and “Sula,” was the first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize. Morrison died at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York, publisher Knopf confirmed to CNN.

Obama awarded Morrison the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 – the nation’s highest civilian honor.

“I remember reading ‘Song of Solomon’ when I was a kid and not just trying to figure out how to write but also how to be and how to think,” Obama said at the time in reference to Morrison’s 1977 novel.

In a separate statement on Facebook Tuesday, the former President lauded Morrison’s “ascendant career” that fused “the African American story within the American story.”

“We know that her stories—that our stories—will always be with us, and with those who come after, and on and on, for all time,” Obama wrote.

CNN’s Melonyce McAfee contributed to this report.