The book world is finally honoring Maya Angelou.
The poet and author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” will be this year’s recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community, the National Book Foundation announced Thursday. It is the first major literary prize for the 85-year-old Angelou, who has been celebrated everywhere from the Grammy Awards to the White House. She has received three Grammys for best spoken word album, a National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.
Speaking by telephone with The Associated Press on Thursday, Angelou said she couldn’t wait to be in the same room as “some very big names in the literary world” and that the Literarian prize made her feel that she was “picking in high cotton.”
“Dr. Angelou’s body of work transcends the words on the page,” the book foundation’s executive director, Harold Augenbraum, said in a statement. “She has been on the front lines of history and the fight for social justice and decade after decade remains a symbol of the redemptive power of literature in the contemporary world.”
E.L. Doctorow will receive an honorary medal for “contributions to American letters.” Doctorow, 82, won the National Book Award in 1986 for “World’s Fair” and was a finalist three other times.