E. L. Doctorow and Dr. Maya Angelou Recognized for Lifetime Achievements

National Book Foundation
Presenter of the National Book Awards 

September 5, 2013

Sherrie Young
National Book Foundation
(212) 612-8078


With Lifetime Achievement Awards on
November 20th at the 2013 National Book Awards Ceremony

New York, New York (September 5, 2013) - The National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, will award its 2013 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to E. L. Doctorow and bestow its 2013 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community to Dr. Maya Angelou at the 64th  National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner. The event will be held on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at Cipriani, 55 Wall Street, in New York.

Doctorow will be honored in recognition of his outstanding achievements in fiction writing. For over five decades, Doctorow's work has been critically celebrated for its vivid depictions of nineteenth- and twentieth-century life, trenchant social criticism, and dazzling prose.

Angelou is a globally revered author and humanitarian. She is best known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a groundbreaking autobiography that opened new literary avenues for the American memoir. Angelou's numerous writings explore subjects such as identity, rape, racism, literacy, the importance of family, and the quest for independence.

National Book Foundation Executive Director Harold Augenbraum said of the selections, "We are privileged this year to recognize two outstanding figures in the world of literature in honoring E.L. Doctorow and Dr. Maya Angelou. Doctorow is a master of historical fiction who has brought the events of the past to people all over the world in an extraordinary fashion. It is also a special opportunity to give tribute to a native New Yorker in his hometown." He added, "Dr. Angelou's body of work transcends the words on the page. 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.

Doctorow is the 26th recipient of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, which was created in 1988 to recognize a lifetime of literary achievement. Previous recipients include John Ashbery, Joan Didion, Maxine Hong Kingston, Elmore Leonard, Norman Mailer, Toni Morrison, and Tom Wolfe. This year's ceremony marks the ninth year that the Foundation has presented the Literarian Award, which was established in 2005 to recognize an individual whose work has enhanced the literary world during a lifetime of service. Previous recipients include Dave Eggers, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Joan Ganz Cooney, Terry Gross, Mitchell Kaplan, Barney Rosset, and Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr.

Nominations for these awards are made by former National Book Award winners, finalists, and judges, and other writers and literary professionals from around the country. Final selections are made by the National Book Foundation's Board of Directors.


Named after Edgar Allen Poe, Edgar Lawrence Doctorow was born on January 6, 1931 and raised in the Bronx, New York. He began his literary career as a reader at Columbia Pictures, and then worked as an editor for New American Library from 1959 to 1964, moving on to serve as editor in chief of Dial Press until 1969. It was at this time that he decided to write full time.

His body of work spans fifty years, has been published in more than 30 languages, and consists of novels, short stories, essays, and a play. Doctorow's debut novel, a Western, Welcome to Hard Times (Simon & Schuster, 1960) was adapted for a film of the same name in 1967.He won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1986 for World's Fair, and was a Fiction Finalist four other times: in 1972 for The Book of Daniel, in 1982 for Loon Lake, in 1989 for Billy Bathgate, and in 2005 for The March.

Doctorow's novel Ragtime (1975) received the first National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1976, was named one of the 100 best English-language novels of the twentieth century by the editorial board of the Modern Library, and was adapted for a motion picture in 1981 and a Broadway musical in 1998. His upcoming novel, Andrew's Brain, will be published in early 2014.

Among Doctorow's other honors are three National Book Critics Circle Awards, the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, two PEN/Faulkner Awards, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal in 1998. He holds the Lewis and Loretta Glucksman chair in English and American Letters at New York University.


Born Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in Stamps, Arkansas, Dr. Maya Angelou is a writer, poet, performer, and teacher. In 1969, with the publication of her groundbreaking literary autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou rose to international prominence as an author. Caged Bird is an intelligent and sophisticated story of how Angelou transformed herself from a victim of racism with an inferiority complex into a self-assured, dignified young woman and civil activist. The book was banned by many schools and colleges because of its frank portrayal of childhood rape, racism, and sexuality. In 2013, at the age of 85, Angelou published her seventh autobiography, Mom & Me & Mom.

Dr. Angelou has also published five books of poetry, including I Shall Not Be Moved, three books of essays, including  Letter to My Daughter, a children's book, and six long-form poems, including "Mother" and "On the Pulse of Morning," which she read at the 1992 inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton. Angelou's reading marked the first time that an African American woman wrote and presented a poem at a Presidential inauguration. She was also the second poet in history to do so, following Robert Frost, who recited a poem at the swearing-in ceremony of John F. Kennedy in 1961. The list of her published verse, nonfiction, and fiction now includes more than 30 bestselling titles.

Angelou's remarkable career encompasses dance, theater, journalism, and social activism. She appeared in Broadway and Off-Broadway plays, including Cabaret for Freedom, which she wrote with Godfrey Cambridge. She also lived and worked in Cairo and Ghana, first as the associate editor of The Arab Observer and then as features editor and writer for The Ghanaian Times. At the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she served as the Northern Coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1978, she was a National Book Award Judge for Biography and Autobiography.

Angelou has received more than 30 honorary degrees and has been inducted into the Wake Forest University Hall of Fame for Writers. In 2010 President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor.