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All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes – Maya Angelou

15th January 2019 – currently reading this book; more updates to follow.

This is the fifth book of Maya Angelou’s seven-part autobiography.

I’ve been working through them over the last couple of years, allowing time between each, but then devouring over two or three days as soon as I have one gripped in my hands. Angelou has an intoxicating style and whilst the words flow fast the emotion, the anger, the passion linger, and often hit you hard. It’s easy to imagine that you’d spend a lot of time listening if you’d been in her company; sometimes it feels like the words are tripping off the page faster than you can read them.

So I had been intrigued watching T.D. [T.D. Bafoo, Angleou’s editor at the Ghanaian Times] and his wife using their tribal differences to demonstrate their love. Getting to know them might lay to rest the ugly suspicion that my ancestors had been weak and gullible and were sold into bondage by a stronger and more clever tribe. The idea was hideous, and if true, I was forced to conclude that my own foreparents probably abstained from the brutish sale of others simply because they couldn’t find tribes more gullbile and vulnerable than they. I couldn’t decide what would be the most appalling; to be descended from bullies or to be a descendant of dupes.

This is why we read, and why we must read widely; not just those who look, talk and sound exactly like ourselves, but people who can introduce us to emotions – worlds – we would never otherwise experience, or perhaps even consider experiencing.

She is frequently angry, unsurprisingly given her early life – abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend, treated with ineveitable contempt by the white community in her hometown. On anger:

I always knew that fury was my natural enemy. It clotted my blood and clogged my pores. It literally blinded me so that I lost peripheral vision. My mouth tasted of metal, and I couldn’t breathe through my nostrils. My thighs felt weak and there was a prickling sensation in my armpits and my groin. I longed to drop on the path to my office, but I continued ordering my reluctant body forward.

The anger would overspill, leading activist Malcolm X to warn her:

We need people on each level to fight our battle. Don’t be in such a hurry to condemn a person because he doesn’t do what you do, or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.

It’s echoed in the trope of not mocking someone for mispronnouncing a word: it probably means they learned it by reading.

I should add that these notes are not supposed to be proper reviews, but things that stand-out to me. They are a future reference. A memory jogging device.

I didn’t feel that Angelou felt in any way comfortable in Africa during that time, although she wanted to. Perhaps even needed to. It ends with her returning to America – and the next volume beckons.

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