Cover Joan Didion in 1981 (Photo: Janet Fries/Getty Images)

The American literary icon who wrote 'The Year of Magical Thinking' has died, and we look back at her impactful life

Joan Didion passed away yesterday at 87, due to complications with Parkinson's disease. The iconic author was a woman who sought to see a new perspective. Born on December 5th, 1932, she described herself as a "shy, bookish child" who struggled with social anxiety.

Pushing herself to engage in acting and public speaking helped her overcome her difficulties, and gave her the confidence to develop a unique style of writing that focused on specific sentence structure (as inspired by Ernest Hemingway) that would eventually leave a lasting mark on the literary scene.

Didion worked at Vogue for seven years after college, having started there after winning a writing contest sponsored by the publication. She would work her way up to become a features editor. During that time, she met John Gregory Dunne, another writer, who she would marry and work alongside.

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In 1968, Didion published her first collection of essays, Slouching Toward Bethlehem, which propelled her career. Her essays from the '70s delved into Hollywood life and counter-cultures of the '60s, while her later political writing was rooted in social rhetoric, and in addition to those works, she also wrote screenplays and biographies. 

Didion's personal life was not without tragedy—in 2003, her husband died from a heart attack while her only daughter Quintana Roo Dunne was in a coma. She passed away a year later due to medical complications, and that's when Didion wrote A Year of Magical Thinking as a way to process her grief. 

Following those difficult years were recognition and awards: In 2006, she received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement and was elected to the American Philosophical Society. In 2007, Didion received the National Book Foundation's annual medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In 2009, Didion was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by Harvard University and in 2013, President Barack Obama presented her with the National Medal of Arts.

Didion was an intelligent, graceful woman with style, and always looked put together with a pair of signature sunglasses. Here are photos of this beloved icon throughout the years, from the '60s til now: 

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