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Maya Angelou, Andrus Award Winner

Her latest? A book about smart eating

Maya Angelou

Photo by Patrick Schneider

Maya Angelou is a respected and beloved poet, author, playwright, civil rights activist, teacher and storyteller.

She is one of the most respected and beloved voices of our time — a poet, author, playwright, civil rights activist and teacher, and a fearless storyteller. So it is a testament to Dr. Maya Angelou's enduring intellect and curiosity that today, at 82, she is adding "foodie" to her staggering list of achievements.

See also: Belva Davis, the nation's first black female TV news reporter.

In her new book (her 31st), Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart, she shares this epiphany: "Eat great food; don't eat much of it." She herself has lost 40 pounds in the past year and says she felt compelled to share her newfound wisdom. Angelou’s extraordinary powers of observation have guided her professional and personal life. Raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and Stamps, Arkansas, she was sexually molested as a young child by her mother’s boyfriend, who was then killed by an uncle. Afterward she refused to speak for six years. These early years were the subject of her bestselling memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. A friend and counselor to Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, to Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she donated her correspondence with America’s great black cultural figures to Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in October. Though her achievements are extensive, Angelou counts among her biggest treasures the love of family. "Not mush, not sentimentality, not even indulgence, but love," she says. "The only way we can heal and grow hearty is if we know love."

*The Andrus Award is AARP’s highest honor, given to an individual who embodies the principles of AARP’s founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus.

Watch a video from the 2011 Inspire Awards Gala