Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December Read


I've known Dr. Maya Angelou through her numerous appearances on Oprah and captivated by her personality. Her wisdom, her ideas and the way she talks as if a mother talking to her children. No wonder Oprah sees her as her mentor and I definitely learned a thing or two from this interesting lady as well.

This book was first published in 1967 as a memoir of her life thus far and reprinted for its second edition this year, 2009. I saw it couple of weeks ago in Borders and the title is enough to entice me to read it more. I didn't buy it that day though, and ended up returning home feeling guilty and miserable. So, the next time I was in Pavilion, I dropped by Times bookstore and quickly made a purchase of this book.

Though the first few pages seemed confusing and rather slow-paced, I simply couldn't put it down after moving on to chapter 3, 4 and so on.

Miss Angelou shared her bittersweet childhood in this memoir and unlike most memoir where the story-telling seemed formal and drab, this one is written in proper, formal way too but at the same time, it didn't look too uptight. There's casual feeling in her writing without forsaking the appropriate, serious tone in sharing her story.

I must admit I liked how the book started. She recalled a time when she was five or six, reciting a poem which she neither remember the lines nor finished it, in her church in front of huge audience. People laughed at her, mocked about her outfit and she ended up peeing on stage from nervousness. She left the church, ran back to her home - all with a huge smile on her face despite the shame and misfortune she faced moments earlier. This is how Maya Angelou looks at life - she takes everything that comes her way with an open heart and still able to laugh at herself, and that's how I wish to lead my life.

This book revolves around her life which she spent with her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, alongside her brother Bailey before moving with their mother in San Francisco and back to Arkansas after a year. She grew up way ahead of her own age, managing difficult country life in Arkansas and overcoming numerous obstacles and adversities, including being raped at the aged of eight years old. Despite all shortcomings, she still managed to shine through, excelled in school and discover the pleasure of loving God.

Throughout this book, I shared her pain and feel the trouble she had to go through - especially the trauma she faced after being raped and not being able to confide entirely during the trial, due to security purposes. But when she shared the brighter side of her childhood, I smiled and laughed along with each lines. That's how the book is - it won't make you feel miserable by the time you finished reading it, but you'll be entertained and appreciate it especially with the candid & comic storytelling.

Being used reading books with simpler ways of writing lately (like Mitch Albom's), this one takes time to get used and comprehend each chapter perfectly, at least for me. I'm a slow reader but this one makes me stayed up all night reading it and hungrily flipping through the pages. I look forward for a copy of her other books and poems from now on.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou retails at RM49.90 (paperback) and distributed by Random House Trade Paperbacks, New York

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