Library, Universities Open Submissions for Second Year of Maya Angelou Book Award

The Kansas City-based Maya Angelou Book Award is open for submissions. The award is named for the St. Louis-born memoirist, poet, and civil rights activist best known for her 1969 memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Angelou was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  

Now in its second year, the award aims to honor Angelou’s legacy by selecting writers and works that show a similar commitment to social justice. In 2021, the winner was Threa Almontaser’s The Wild Fox of Yemen, a provocative collection of poetry about both the Yemeni-American experience and, more generally, the life of immigrants in the United States.  

Because last year’s award honored a work of poetry, the 2022 award will honor a work of fiction. Kaite Stover, the Library’s director of readers’ services, says this alternating approach presents a wonderful opportunity.  

“While poetry is an excellent form for capturing human emotions about subjects, fiction has the ability to place the reader right in the situation that the characters are experiencing,” Stover says.  

Last year’s inaugural award attracted more than 100 poetry submissions from publishers across the nation. Stover expects as many or more new fiction titles to be submitted this year.  

Looking back, Stover says she was pleased that the award’s 14-person selection committee identified work aligned with the choices of other prestigious national awards in 2021. The committee passed three titles to an external guest judge, writer DeMaris B. Hill, who selected Almontaser’s collection, which has now been included on several best-of lists and had already won other honors like the Walt Whitman Award.  

“We attract award-winning pieces. I like that the Maya Angelou Book Award is a bellwether for literature,” Stover says.  

The award is cosponsored by the Kansas City Public Library, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of Missouri-Columbia, Missouri State University, and Northwest Missouri State, Truman State, and Southeast Missouri State universities.  

The winner will receive a $10,000 stipend and conduct a two-week, fall-semester reading tour of the partnering education institutions.  

About the Maya Angelou Book Award 

Check out The Wild Fox of Yemen  | More About Threa Almontaser