First Book, Banned
I’ve always loved Maya Angelou’s poetry. Each word she places in each line is dedicated and purposeful. She can make you laugh and cry and reminisce within the span of a few seconds reading across a single verse. She’s damn good. And one of my favorite poets/authors of all time.
In 2016, I put together a list of 10 banned books that I wanted to read in that year; Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings was the first book I read. It was relatable, riveting and heartbreaking. I read it it one sitting.
But wait…there’s more!
Now, imagine my luck finding out after reading this book that it was only one of six in a collected autobiography. I wanted to read all of them right then and there, but alas, I had limited funds and nine other books to get through on my list.
(Plus, I’d recently bought a serious number of books, and I felt guilty buying any new ones. Book lovers/hoarders know what I mean!)
So, I bided my time, and in my second academic year teaching in Oman (2017-2018), my classroom parents bought me the entire collection as a birthday gift. I don’t think they quite understood just how much that gift meant to me. I literally danced around with it pressed tightly to my chest around my house.
That following summer I toted around Maya’s 1,184 page, 2.5 pound, 8.3 inch thick book while exploring through towns, meandering through parks and walking up and down mountains (not an exaggeration). I even on occasion got my husband to carry it around for me, and blissfully ignored his begrudging sighs whenever he packed it in his day bag. All that just so I could take it out at a moment’s notice, open it up and read during any and all downtime.
It is that good.
If you’re a well-seasoned or aspiring writer, you must read this book. Maya Angelou has a unique way of maintaining her poetic style in her narration that totally and fully engrosses you in her story. Writers of any style and from any genre would do themselves a service reading her autobiography and taking notes.
And not only that, writers would benefit from reading her book because she teaches us through her life story one of the most important thing any writer needs to know: you must live and experience life in order to write about it.
Though many of her formative years were filled with abuse, neglect and uncertainty, she also lived life as much as possible and often by the seat of her pants. She was a dancer, a singer, a diner cook; she was even a prostitute at one point. She moved to Africa with a man she loved but was uncertain about throughout their entire relationship. She made choices and failed and triumphed and always moved forward.
Reading her autobiography will inspire you to live. Perhaps not in the precarious ways in which she chose at times, but it’ll definitely make you rethink whether or not you need to binge watch Netflix for the third day in a row.
Because living life fully means you’ll gain experience. And with experience comes perspective. And like Maya demonstrates in all of her writing, perspective makes for captivating writing.