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He's Oh, And I was out of the musty room and into the even mustier lobby. In the street I saw the receptionist and myself going faithfully through paces that were stale with familiarity, although I had never encountered that kind of situation before and, probably, neither had she. We were like actors who, knowing the play by heart, were still able to cry afresh over the old tragedies and laugh spontaneously at the comic situations. The miserable little encounter had nothing to do with me, the me of me, any more than it had to do with that silly clerk.

The incident was a recurring dream, concocted years before by stupid whites and it eternally came back to haunt us all. The secretary and I were like Hamlet and Laertes in the final scene, where, because of harm done by one ancestor to another, we were bound to duel to the death.

Also because the play must end somewhere. I went further than forgiving the clerk, I accepted her as fellow victim of the same puppeteer. On the streetcar, I put my fare into the box and the conductorette looked at me with the usual hard eyes of white contempt. She patted her money changer. Her Southern nasal accent sliced my meditation and I looked deep into my thoughts. All lies, all comfortable lies. The receptionist was not innocent and neither was I.


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The whole charade we had played out in that crummy waiting room had directly to do with me, Black, and her, white. It tells the story of her younger life in the American South in the s. Billy Liar.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Book Review

A Kestrel for a Knave. Sons and Lovers. The Circumlocution Office. By using this site, you agree we can set and use cookies. Modesty is a learned behavior.

But I do pray for humility, because humility comes from the inside out. Her story awed millions. The young single mother who performed at strip clubs to earn a living later danced and sang on stages around the world.


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A black woman born poor wrote and recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history. A childhood victim of rape, shamed into silence, eventually told her story through one of the most widely read memoirs of the past few decades. Angelou, a Renaissance woman and cultural pioneer, has died, Wake Forest University said in a statement Wednesday. She was Angelou had served as a professor of American studies at the school since Angelou had been set to appear this week at the Major League Baseball Beacon Awards Luncheon, but canceled in recent days citing an unspecified illness.

Newsweek's Original Review of Maya Angelou's 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings'

Tall and regal, with a deep, majestic voice, she was unforgettable whether encountered through sight, sound or the printed word. She was an actress, singer and dancer in the s and s and broke through as an author in with "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," which became standard and occasionally censored reading and made Angelou one of the first black women to enjoy mainstream success.

The world was watching in when she read her cautiously hopeful "On the Pulse of the Morning" at President Bill Clinton's first inauguration. Her confident performance openly delighted Clinton and made publishing history by making a poem a best-seller, if not a critical favorite. For President George W.

Bush, she read another poem, "Amazing Peace," at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the White House. Presidents honored her in return with a National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor. In , she received an honorary National Book Award. She called herself a poet, in love with the "sound of language," ''the music in language," as she explained to The Associated Press in But she lived so many lives.

She was a wonder to Toni Morrison, who marveled at Angelou's freedom from inhibition, her willingness to celebrate her own achievements. She was a mentor to Oprah Winfrey, whom she befriended when Winfrey was still a local television reporter, and often appeared on her friend's talk show program. She mastered several languages and published not just poetry, but advice books, cookbooks and children's stories. She wrote music, plays and screenplays, received an Emmy nomination for her acting in "Roots," and never lost her passion for dance, the art she considered closest to poetry.

The poet tries for the line, the balance," she told The Associated Press in , shortly before her 80th birthday. Her very name as an adult was a reinvention. Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis and raised in Stamps, Ark. She was smart and fresh to the point of danger, packed off by her family to California after sassing a white store clerk in Arkansas. Other times, she didn't speak at all: At age 7, she was raped by her mother's boyfriend and didn't talk for years. She learned by reading, and listening. And 'Deep River. Even now it can catch me. And I read every book, even if I didn't understand it.

At age 9, she was writing poetry.

by Maya Angelou

By 17, she was a single mother. In her early 20s, she danced at a strip joint, ran a brothel, was married, and then divorced. But by her mids, she was performing at the Purple Onion in San Francisco, where she shared billing with another future star, Phyllis Diller. She also spent a few days with Billie Holiday, who was kind enough to sing a lullaby to Angelou's son, Guy, surly enough to heckle her off the stage and astute enough to tell her: "You're going to be famous.

But it won't be for singing. She worked as a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Council, and lived for years in Egypt and Ghana, where she met Nelson Mandela, a longtime friend; and Malcolm X, to whom she remained close until his assassination, in