Remembering Joan Didion, Who Has Died at 87

Joan Didion in front of books.
Photo by Janet Fries/Getty Images

Joan Didion, one of the great chroniclers of the later half of the 20th century in both fiction and journalism, has died at the age of 87. According to a statement released by an executive from her publisher to The New York Times, Didion passed at her home in Manhattan after suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.

Born in Sacramento, California, much of Didion’s early work, including the essay collection The White Album and the novel Play It as It Lays, dealt with the counterculture, social change, and Hollywood glamour of her home state. Though, in later works, Didion would turn her attention to America’s political and military involvement in El Salvador, the rising power of the Cuban exile community in Miami, and the American political system writ large. One of Didion’s most critically and commercially successful works, the 2005 book The Year of Magical Thinking, came much later in her life and focused on her grief after the death of her longtime husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, while caring for her ill daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne Michael.

Later life also saw Didion’s rise into a near mythological and much-revered figure in culture. She starred in a 1989 Gap ad with her daughter, photographed by Annie Leibowitz. She later also starred in a 2015 ad for the fashion house Céline shot by Juergen Teller that both cemented designer Phoebe Philo’s particular vision and Didion’s own eternally cool caché. A 2017 documentary called Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold and directed by her nephew, actor Griffin Dunne, was a hit for Netflix. In 2013, she was also presented with a National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama. It remains nearly impossible to burrow into the corners of Twitter inhabited by writers and journalists without finding dozens consciously indebted to her style.

Courtesy of Céline

Here, some of the most notable remembrances of Didion.