Monday, July 28, 2014

Maya Angelou  1928-2014
     For the next installment in my summer reading theme, Memoirs, I chose an unread book from my bookshelf, a book that I had considered often and always remarked, "Oh, that one looks good.  I'll read it next."  Years passed and it remained unread.  After Maya Angelou's sudden death on May 28th, 2014, I walked directly to the shelf, pulled out Maya's memoir of her early life, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and began to read.
     Her words were powerful, clear and colorful.  They evoked a sharp picture of the United States at a time in American history that no one should be proud of, the Jim Crow south and the WWII west coast, during the first half of the twentieth century.  Her story is one of prejudice, inequality, determination and horror.  Ms. Angelou was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, racial prejudice and parental ineptitude.  
     Many aspects of the story were amazing to me.   That Maya Angelou was able to move forward after being sexually abused at age eight amazed me.  That she became stronger after each custodial setback amazed me.  That she learned from each bad experience, however horrifying, and became stronger for it amazed me.  
     Maya Angelou wrote each word with honesty, something that can be difficult when relating devastating life events.  Her words are full of emotion; never sensational, never downplayed.   She expressed real bitterness and outrage (and rightly so) about the way that she was treated by society, yet she also expressed shock and puzzlement that she didn't feel the same outrage when confronted with the poor treatment of the American Japanese.  Such a real and honest memoir is not to be missed.  

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