NEW YORK (AP) — Her body weak, her voice rich and strong, Maya Angelou sang, lectured and reminisced as she accepted a lifetime achievement award Thursday night from the Norman Mailer Center.
The 85-year-old author, poet, dancer and actress was honored during a benefit gala at the New York Public Library, the annual gathering organized by the Mailer Center and writers colony . Seated in a wheelchair, she was a vivid presence in dark glasses and a sparkling black dress as she marveled that a girl from a segregated Arkansas village could grow up to become a literary star.
“Imagine it,” she said, “a town so prejudiced black people couldn’t even eat vanilla ice cream.”
Angelou was introduced by her former editor at Random House, Robert Loomis, and she praised him for talking her into writing her breakthrough memoir, the million-selling “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” The key was suggesting to her that the book might be too hard to write.
The people who knew her best, she explained, understood that “if you want to get Maya Angelou to do so something, tell her she can’t.”
Angelou, a longtime resident of North Carolina, will be back in Manhattan next month to collect an honorary National Book Award medal.
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Junot Diaz and the late author-journalist Michael Hastings also received prizes Thursday. Hastings’ widow, Elise, teared up as she accepted a journalism award on behalf of her husband, who died in a car accident last summer at age 33.
She recalled that Hastings, best known for a Rolling Stone story about the U.S. war in Afghanistan that led to the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, felt a kinship with for the brilliant and troublesome Mailer. When the couple fought, she said, he would point out that in “comparison to Mailer he was a great husband,” a reference to a notorious incident in which Mailer stabbed his wife.
Hastings was a “dissident, a cynical idealist and a breathtaking writer,” she said.
The dinner event was the fifth gala for the Mailer center, named for the celebrated author who died in 2007 and dedicated to helping writers “across all genres who seek artful ways to express themselves and provoke meaningful discussion about our society.”
Previous honorees include Toni Morrison, Keith Richards and Robert Caro.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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