When an older person shares their story, you sit up and listen right? You try to soak up some of that wisdom. Wisdom that’s come from years of living life, experiencing it’s ups and downs and coming out the other side. This is exactly what Maya Angelou offers within this book, buckets of it.
Despite having studied the civil rights movement in detail at school – I really didn’t know much about Maya Angelou before I read this book, but I’m so glad I did.
Maya was born in 1928 in St Lois and grew up through the time of racial segregation, with the awareness that white and black people were treated differently, despite not fully understanding why. She experienced domestic abuse, racial discrimination, teenage parenthood and a whole raft of other challenges and it is these short stories and lessons that she imparts throughout the book. Written to a daughter she never had, but aimed at all the daughters of the world.
Despite the horrors that she faced in her life, Maya was able to keep her faith in the goodness of people and remain positive. I related to her as a woman, although of course being a British white girl, born in the 80’s to a pretty normal family – I struggled to relate to the experiences she went through personally, but I don’t think that matters in this case.
This book speaks to all women from all walks of life, teaching us that no-matter what – we can take the high road, we can survive and we can thrive.
Sadly Maya passed away a few years ago and this book was published in 2008 – but it’s no less applicable to life today and sometimes I think finding an old gem, is just as rewarding as reading something on the ‘hot list’ of the moment. There’s SO much reading out there to do, I’m only just scratching the surface.
The book is emotional but ultimately empowering, here are some of my favourite quotes:
MY TOP FIVE QUOTES FROM ‘LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER’
1. “A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face”
2. “A kind word, a vote of support is a charitable gift. I can move over and make another place for someone. I can turn my music up if it pleases or down if it is annoying.”
3. “Let’s tell the truth to people. When people ask, ‘How are you?’ have the nerve sometimes to answer truthfully. You must know, however, that people will start avoiding you because, they, too, have knees that pain them and heads that hurt and they don’t want to know about yours. But think of it this way: If people avoid you, you will have more time to meditate and do fine research on a cure for whatever truly afflicts you”
4. “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them…Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.”
5. “We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.”
These words might not mean much until you read Maya’s story, but I encourage you to do so and let me know which elements touched you – if any! It’s also not just a book for women, although the front cover probably attracts more women than men. It’s really about being a better person all round, regardless of your sex or background.