I’m struck into silent amazement at the wealth of incredible writing I’m discovering. Amazement not only for the content and extent of it, but that I’ve overlooked it for so many years. Retirement is truly a wonderful gift that I believe I will never tire of.
Ever since reading Time’s 100 Women Who Changed the World, I’ve been learning so much and reading work, some I had been marginally aware of, but some I’d never really heard of before. Last week I read Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out, and this week, I picked up Maya Angelou’s Letter to My Daughter. It’s like 6 degrees of separation. I read one thing, something is mentioned, it leads me somewhere else, and keeps on going. (Kind of like the energizer bunny, only I’m retired so I’m slower!) The book Maya Angelou is most famous for, of course, is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and I’ve just added that to my Kindle library to read later. But Letter to My Daughter is also autobiographical and spans lessons from her whole life that she wants to pass along to everyone who is willing to learn. She writes,
I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish-speaking, Native American and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all. Here is my offering to you.
And it is just that — an offering. Maya offers a collection of 28 stories from her life and what she has learned from some of them, although she writes that she “[has not] told how I have used the solutions, knowing that you are intelligent and creative and resourceful and you will use them as you see fit.”
The stories seem to be told chronologically and detail stories of love, some of embarrassment, and some of terrifying danger that kept me turning the pages until the very end. She tells of growing up with her grandmother in segregated Arkansas and the difference between growing up and growing old. She writes of a young sexual encounter that left her cold and pregnant, and how her mother and step-father took it in stride without so much as a reprimand.
There is a humorous account of Maya attending a glamorous party in Senegal at the home of the famous actress, Samia, where she mistook the reason guests were not walking on a very expensive carpet. Thinking to set an example, she walked on it despite glances askance from others. A little later, servants came in, rolled up the carpet and replaced it with another equally beautiful one, after which they placed dishes of food on it. Then, the hostess invited everyone to sit on the carpet to dine on dishes prepared in honour of her special guest, Maya Angelou.
The most shocking story was about a beau Maya had named Two Finger Mark, so called because of a factory accident which caused him to lose three fingers and destroyed his dream of being a prize fighter. He had never been anything other than kind and gentle with her until one evening when he drove her to a secluded spot and stripped and beat her within an inch of her life because he believed her to have two-timed him. If he hadn’t driven her back to town and showed some friends her beaten body in the back seat of his car, she might have died. They recognized her, told a friend of her mother’s, who, with some contacts, tracked her down and rescued her. She believed it to be an answer to prayer.
Included is a commencement address she gave, some of her poetry, and an incident in an southern airport café where she thought she and her friend were being discriminated against, only to find that the cook was out of grits and half of the people in the restaurant hadn’t received their breakfast.
You will laugh and cry and be left wanting more. I went on to find out more about her on the Internet and am looking forward to reading more of her autobiographies and poetry. Maya Angelou lived an amazing life to the full and has left an incredible legacy through her writing. * * * * *
This is the second book in my Author’s Challenge 2015; Maya Angelou is number 11 on the list of women authors who changed the world. It is my 53rd book out of 100 for the Goodreads Challenge 2015. Click on the Badge at the left to find out how you can join the challenge.