Awul iPhone3 pix
I was around 14 years old when I first read Dr Maya Angelou's autobiographies in a jumbled fashion. I started with the last volume, in which she mention starting to write Caged Bird. I clung onto her relationship with her brother because all I've ever had is myself. I now know and admit with no shame that I long for that sort of connectedness and belonging WITH someone. I read these books and talked to no one about them. Not my own mother or the girls and boy I spent a lot of time with at school. Not the people all over the country with whom I exchanged letters. The worlds of Marguerite Johnson (and her lived experiences) were my experiences by myself. Even when one of the girls I spent most of my school time and I stole a copy of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings from the school's dusty library and read it in turns -- I never spoke to her about it. It was between Angelou and myself. I have not yet read every book in her autobiographies.
My mother died when I was 17 and as the daughter of a dead mother all that stands out vividly from what I've read of Angelou's life -- in her own words -- now is Vivian Baxter. When I first became obsessed with becoming a Mad Woman and self-identifying as A Mad Woman in the making I had women like Baxter and Angelou herself in mind. I also had my mother's mother in mind. I know more about both Angelou and her mother than I do my own mother's mother but all three feature highly on the wide spectrum of women who've influenced me and have coloured my life. Even her beautiful but very traditional life with her grandmother stands out for me. She lived.
She became a young mother, was a rape survivor and was so in control of her life. Dancing and singing and healing. Going where her heart and good conscience took her.
I bought her essay collection Letter to my Daughter from one of the pop-up book stalls that are spread thinly all through my Jozi. This was at beginning of the height of the depression -- a height I've been living through for the last couple of years. I'd read the collection between 14 and 15 and wanted to revisit it. I still do. As soon as I can focus enuf to absorb a book from start to finish. I know the day is coming. I feel better more often than I feel like weeping in corner now. Most days are mending.
As a black girl born into the life I was born into I feel lucky to have had (to continue to have) Maya Angelou's words and generosity in her writing.
This marks the second time in the last six months I've sat in taxis filled with other people having FEELINGS because a great person had just died.
My life is me publishing things days after writing them now.