The Maya Angelou Book Award

Maya Angelou Book Award Winner is Threa Almontaser

Threa Almontaser Announced as Winner

Yemeni American poet Threa Almontaser was named Wednesday as the inaugural winner of the Maya Angelou Book Award for her extraordinary debut collection of poetry, The Wild Fox of Yemen.

The new national award, established by the Kansas City Public Library, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and five other Missouri universities, celebrates contemporary writers of poetry and fiction whose works reflect a commitment to social justice and inclusion. Almontaser’s selection – from more than 100 entries – was announced during Wednesday night’s Writers for Readers literary event co-presented by the Library and UMKC.

Moving between English and Arabic, The Wild Fox of Yemen examines the life of a young Muslim woman in New York, half a world away from her roots in Yemen. Almontaser describes it as a love letter to her home country and the people of Yemen.

"I feel a responsibility toward the Yemeni community now more than ever to write, not just about our survival but our joys, too,” Almontaser said. “As for where the singular poems sit within this larger body of work, I'd say I'm influenced to write about both cultural differences and different cultures."

The award, named for Missouri-born memoirist, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, is accompanied by a $10,000 stipend. Almontaser will conduct a speaking tour next spring of the six participating universities: UMKC, the University of Missouri-Columbia, Truman State, Missouri State, Southeast Missouri State, and Northwest Missouri State.


The committee announced five finalists for the Maya Angelou Book Award on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021:

  • Pilgrim Bell Poems by Iranian American poet and scholar Kaveh Akbar, a poetry professor in the MFA programs at Purdue University, Randolph College, and Warren Wilson College.
  • Wild Fox of Yemen by Threa Almontaser, a Yemeni American writer and multimedia artist from New York City and visiting writer at Duke University, and winner of the Academy of American Poets’ 2020 Walt Whitman Award.
  • Postcolonial Love Poems by Natalie Diaz, a Latina and Mojave American poet and winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She teaches in the MFA program at Arizona State University.
  • Sometimes I Never Suffered by Shane McCrae, an assistant professor of poetry at Columbia University, poetry editor of the quarterly literary journal Image, and National Book Award finalist.
  • Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry by John Murillo, an assistant professor of English and director of the creative writing program at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He’s won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry and an NAACP Image Award.
Read more about the award in this piece from Literary Hub »

About the Award

The Maya Angelou Book Award was founded in 2020 to honor the legacy of Missouri-born author Maya Angelou by celebrating contemporary authors whose work has demonstrated a commitment to social justice in America and/or the world. The Angelou Book Award is alternatively presented each year for poetry and fiction.

For Writers

Each year, one author will win $10,000, conduct a reading tour of Missouri colleges, universities and libraries, and be recognized in a ceremony sponsored by the Kansas City Public Library, the University of Missouri and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.


Submissions closed Monday, May 3, 2021.

  • Entrants must be U.S. Citizens and reside within the United States.
  • Entrants must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Entrants must be available for a two-week reading tour in Missouri during the Fall semester (virtual or in-person, as circumstances permit).
  • Entrants must not be an employee of a Missouri college or university, or an employee of the Kansas City Public Library.

There is no entry fee. The Reading Committee requests electronic copies of manuscripts published in 2020 and 2021. Galleys of books scheduled for summer and fall 2021 are eligible.

2021 Award Information

Submissions open Monday, March 1, 2021
Deadline for entry: Monday, May 3, 2021
Announcement of winner: October 20, 2021
Book tour and ceremony: Spring 2022 - Dates forthcoming

Submit Entry for Maya Angelou Book Award

Submissions for the Maya Angelou Book Award are closed.