I just saw that Maya Angelou has passed at the age of eighty six. My heart sank and I felt as though a friend had been taken from me. I honestly didn't read much of her poetry, but her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has always been one of my all time favorites.
I first read it when I had separated from my husband and left him to go on a journey out West with no prospects and a backpack for luggage. Somewhere along the way, I found it, probably at a news stand in Arizona or California when I needed help escaping from myself and my situation.
Eventually, I got my life somewhat straightened out and returned to the East Coast to have my son and reunite with my daughters. The work life started over again and so did the education and I found myself with an M.A.T. in English and with a job at a small high school in an upper middle class suburban school of predominantly white kids.
I decided to revisit Maya's story when I put together an African American Literature Unit and taught it to a bunch of misfit 11th graders who took to the story and enjoyed it as much as I did. Despite taking a risk with a book which held much adult content and wisdom, my decision paid off and many of the kids wrote about her story in their final essays.
The worn paper back sits on my bookshelf along with my other favorites and I've decided it's time to revisit her again. She's one of the great ones, who transcends race, creed and color to remind us of what the essence of being human is all about.
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