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Toni Morrison Accepts Award at 2011 National Book Festival

In its 11th year, the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., had more than expanding to 115 authors to celebrate. Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel, Pulitzer and most other literary prizes of note, attended as an author and to receive the festival’s Creative Achievement Award.

The two-day festival was geared toward participants who have an ongoing love affair with books and  reading them. Morrison told an audience at the Library of Congress Sept. 23, “… comforting for me, being here, is being among people where I don’t have to defend books.”

According to the Washington Post, while admitting that she does enjoy the virtual page functions on her iPad, the 80-year-old sincerely does love physical books, likes holding them in her hands with pen in tow, underlining passages — “ruining” it — as she calls it.

Morrison was this year’s marquee draw with several events focused on her over the 48-hour period. The Hays Adams hotel was the venue where, at a luncheon in her honor, Morrison described her life as a young college student at Howard University in 1949 and was asked about her views of Washington these days.

“I think what I’m most aware of right now — in addition to having President Barack Obama as a black man in the White House — there’s such a level of cruelty,” she told the audience. Americans have devolved from “citizens” to “consumers” and now “taxpayers” — a divisive, sinister “kind of poison.”

Reflective with solid wisdom to spare, Morrison would have rather been sharing about her first love, “My life is either reading books, teaching books, editing books or writing books.”

Many of her fans skipped the award ceremony Saturday morning to wait in line for her book signing. With only a few hours before the scheduled event, the line threaded through the mall.

“It’s been one of the great pleasures of my life,” said festival co-chair David Rubenstein, who gave $5.3 million for this year’s gathering.