Saturday, 14 February 2015

For late bloomers - Maya Angelou I

I know why caged birds sing
Maya's story is simply written and compelling. I like the way she writes about herself and her life's experiences with such detachment. She is no hero; she doesn't write to set scores; or to take revenge.

She seems to go through everything without anger. Even with the most traumatic events (her rape) she never sits on the chair of victim. At times it feels as if she was flying through life and watching the events as they were unfolding in front of her eyes but not as a protagonist, the leading lady of her fate but rather as the spectator.

Race is discussed with crude honesty and maturity, it never takes over. She writes about what it was like to be "young, gifted and black" (pardon, Nina, I know that's your song) in America but the focus is on the experience itself, on overcoming that race laid on her path but without resentment but more like a fact of life. There are no ideal characters, and she sees everyone for what they are. Everyone is as real as one can be. Acceptance of life in its own terms seems to me by far the great message of her book.  

No doubt three characters stand out: Bailey, Mother Dear and Mamma. All of them encapsulate parts of who she is: Mamma who gave her an understanding of life and religious values that later are the fuel for her guilt, her Mother Dear who never treats her as a victim which is the reason why she never sees herself as such; and her brother who is her connection with life and the only male character in her life of real importance.
I didn't expect that the first part of her story would end as it did. It’s almost as if I was expecting a happy ending, perhaps something along the lines of "that's when I started writing…" but I guess that's what makes the book so good: it's so real that it sounds like fiction.

Here are some passages I really liked which show the richness of her writing:
Weekdays revolved on a sameness wheel. They turned into themselves so steadily and inevitably that each seemed to be the original of yesterday’s rough draft. Saturdays, however, always broke the mold and dared to be different.
-          Uncle Willie, why do they hate us?

-          They don’t hate. They don’t know us. How can they hate us? They mostly scared.

Bailey was away in a mystery, locked in the enigma that young Southern Black boys start to unravel, start to try to unravel, from seven years old to death. The humourless puzzle of inequality and hate. His experience raised the question worth and values, of aggressive inferiority and aggressive arrogance.
 “Life is going to give you just what you put in it. Put your whole heart in everything you do, and pray, then you can wait.”
“The bright hours when the young rebelled against the descending sun had to give away to twenty-four hours period called “days” that were named as well as numbered.
The Black female is assaulted in her tender years by all those common forces of nature at the same time that she is caught in the tripartite crossfire of masculine prejudice, white illogical hate and Black lack of power.
The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often with amazement, distaste and belligerence. It seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.
I would recommend this book to anyone who worry things are getting late for them.
 Or they are getting old for things.
Some people make it very young, some people are lucky
to have everything perfect so they can grow and develop themselves without worries.
Others accept life as it comes and make the most of it.
There is no right or wrong, or better.
There is you and your story.

That's the beauty of this book and of Maya.

Join the conversation!

  1. It's a wonderful book isn't it. I studied it for "A" level and loved it. So beautifully written. There are four more books in her autobiography as well, she really lived life to the full.

    1. Hi CJ! Yes, her books are great. I felt so inspired, I am reading them all.


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