Maya Angelo’s First-Time Booker Prize Winner Was Celebrated With the Same Kind of Enthusiasm

Maya Angelo’s First-Time Booker Prize Winner Was Celebrated With the Same Kind of Enthusiasm

For one award-winning Black L.A. author, light skin was no refuge.

In 2013, she was a judge in the first ever Black-Light-Skinned Booker Prize, which was announced in October and will honor the work of African Americans and people of color. At the time, the announcement was met with widespread praise and a wave of optimism.

It was part of a new wave of public support for the book industry after years of controversy had caused the industry to lose much of its authority and credibility in the eyes of many in the African American community.

The first black author to win the award last year was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for “Americanah.” And it took a year after that for another black author to win for her nonfiction work, “The Kitchen,” by Angela Davis.

With those wins, the Booker Prize has become a beacon and a symbol for the literary community.

But when the first-time author, Maya Angelo, won in 2012, she was heralded — and her victory was celebrated — with the same kind of enthusiasm that the first black winner received.

“I felt a special connection that evening,” said Angelo, 32, describing the excitement she felt when she went to the event as a first-time winner. “I felt a special connection.”

The feeling of that connection led to even greater expectations and acclaim for Angelo. But in June, the same year she won the book-of-the-year prize, Angelo suffered a major setback: her husband, who has been with her for almost four years and is deeply invested in her work and her life, is fighting for his life, after succumbing to prostate cancer two months earlier.

In many ways, Angelo said, it was a gift from God. The cancer stopped him from moving on with his life, but it also made him stronger and made him appreciate his wife’s talents, particularly as a writer.

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