I always loved writing and would find any excuse to write when I was at school and I collected books that I would buy for a few pence at jumble sales or school fayres. My bookshelf at home was small, but filled with precious jewels that spoke to me and only me and took me to places I had never heard of and could only imagine. I read anything and everything and would read books so quickly that the school reading scheme ran out and I was sent to the library to find books to read instead. I read all of them too and for a while my favourite books were a big book with photos of minerals and crystals in it and another called Mathemagic which is now out of print. Yes for a while back there I was interested in science and maths. I know Hubbie is open-mouthed at this last fact so let's just wait for him to get up off the floor shall we ?
The books I read were the usual ones by Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis, the Heidi stories, and anything that was a series of books appealed the most as it didn't have to end. What the school library of James Wolfe Junior School did not have was any books by black authors - or at least none I knew of. It wasn't until I went to secondary school that I finally read Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry which was a darker story than I was used to reading and led me to find I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. From the first time I read a Maya Angelou book I knew I loved her. The writing was fluid and even though I hadn't heard her speak, in my head I could imagine the voice she was reading to me in. When I did hear her voice years later it was richer and far more beautiful that I could ever have known.
When I finished reading her first book I re-read it and then I read the next one and then the next one and so on until there were no more left. I had to know this woman, dammit I had to be her. Vibrant, brave, clever, capable of anything, so very beautiful and she was black and from a poor family. It was the first time I'd seen a woman who was so accomplished and made me think it might be possible for me to do it too. It made me realise it was ok to write about real life and to be honest about myself and that didn't make me a bad person.
I always promised myself I'd see her perform live and I even looked into studying in America at the university where she was a professor so I would meet her. It was a dream I was unable to fulfil and now she has passed away it won't happen. I listen to her voice and see her kindly face and it's like I actually know her. As though she is behind my hand when I write something honest, painful, raw and possibly beautiful.
Her poetry empowered me, her activism inspired me, her writing spoke to me. She gave me my passion for writing and helped me to learn to love the colour of my skin. She even helped me to understand that what is done to us does not define what we become.
The news that Dr Maya Angelou has passed away has broken my heart.
It also reminds me that I write because it is my passion.
Dr Maya Angelou (4th April 1928 - 28th May 2014)