Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now by Maya Angelou

My dears, I draw the picture of the wealthy couple standing in a darkened hallway, peering into a lighted room where black servants were lifting their voices in merriment and comradery, and I realize that living well is an art which can be developed. Of course, you will need the basic talents to build upon: They are a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings, an assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift. That people who may differ from you in political stance, sexual persuasion, and racial inheritance can be founts of fun, and if you are lucky, they can become even convivial comrades. 

~from "Living Well, Living Good", p. 65 of Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now

I started the year off right by reading a Maya Angelou book. Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now is a book of short essays. I've only read one other book by Angelou, but when I did I immediately got online and ordered her collected poems. This time, I got online and ordered her collected memoirs. And, I'll plan on reading her poetry in April for National Poetry Month.

Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now begins with a nice, feminist bang as her first essay, "In All Ways a Woman" describes a practice that has, I believe, now fallen mostly into the past. She talks about how demeaning it is to add the "ess" that used to define whether a working person was male or female. Postmaster, postmistress; actor, actress. It jarred me a little when I realized that female actors were simply being called actors, years back. I don't know exactly when that occurred but I agree with Maya. It makes a lot more sense to use a single term, rather than demeaning women by making it obvious when there's a female in a certain position. Having said that, I believe we still do call females in Congress "congresswomen". That needs to change.

From the essay "Complaining":

"Sister, there are people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor and rich and white and black, but they will never wake again. Sister, those who expected to rise did not, their beds became their cooling boards and their blankets became their winding sheets. And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all for just five minutes of this weather or ten minutes of that plowing that person was grumbling about. So you watch yourself about complaining sister. What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain. 

~fr. pp. 86-87

From the essay "Our Boys":

We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter their color; equal in importance no matter their texture.

~p. 124,

Highly recommended - A short gulp of a book at just 139 pages (with lots of white space between essays) but deeply meaningful. So glad I started the year by reading the advice of a wise, strong, amazing woman.

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  1. I read this along with all her memoirs a few years ago, and I think she's such an excellent writer!

    1. She's a wonder. Can't wait to get the collected memoirs. I want to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

  2. What a great book to start off the year! I'm loving the quotes you shared. All things I want to remember and work on this year.

    1. It was a great first book of the year, definitely. So much to think about and put into practice!


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