Thursday, April 11, 2013

Prof. Maya Angelou

We like to read something inspirational at breakfast.  Lynn reads and I listen.  We started with Huston Smith's tender and educational "The World's Religions".  We are now reading Maya Angelou's "Letter to My Daughter". 

I hadn't paid much attention to Maya Angelou until she read a poem at the Clinton inauguration.  I knew she wouldn't have been doing that unless she had talent and prestige but I didn't follow up on learning about her. The book we are reading now consists of short one-page chapters. 

I have learned that she had a loving childhood but suffered some unpleasant experiences as a black child in Arkansas.  She is a professor at Wake Forest University.  She first came to notice with the book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", a story of her early life.  She has received dozens of awards and over 30 honorary doctorates.

Here is part of the Wikipedia on her:

Angelou's list of occupations includes pimp, prostitute, night-club dancer and performer, castmember of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, author, journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the days of decolonization, and actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. Since 1982, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Since the 1990s she has made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.

I was surprised when Time ended a recent edition with an interview with her right while we were reading one of her books.  She was asked how she felt about men.  She is 85 years old and was raped at age 8.  She said," I've never had a dislike for men. I've been badly treated by some. But I've been loved greatly by some. I married a lot of them." 

Here is the first part of "Surviving" from Letter to My Daughter

Where the winds of disappointment dash my dream house to the ground and anger, octopus-like, wraps its tentacles around my soul I just stop myself. I stop in my tracks and look for one thing that can heal me. I find in my memory one child's face any child's face looking at a desired toy with sweet surprise a child's face with hopeful expectation in his eyes.

Angelou, Maya (2008-09-23). Letter to My Daughter (Kindle Locations 773-780). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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