*Novelist Toni Morrison has been announced as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The Nobel-winning author joins fellow recipients Bob Dylan, former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Israeli president Shimon Peres, the White House announced today.

“These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our nation,” said President Obama. “They’ve challenged us, they’ve inspired us, and they’ve made the world a better place. I look forward to recognizing them with this award.

The Medal of Freedom, to be given out at the White House in late spring, is for 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.” Former literary recipients include Maya Angelou and EB White.

Citing her works Song of Solomon, Jazz and the Pulitzer prize-winning Beloved, the White House called Morrison one of America’s “most celebrated novelists.” She won the Nobel prize for literature in 1993, becoming the first African-American woman to do so, for novels which the Nobel jury said were “characterized by visionary force and poetic import,” and give “life to an essential aspect of American reality.”

Her latest book, Home, about an African-American veteran of the Korean War, has just been published.