It was so sad to hear that Maya Angelou’s had died last week. Like so many others around the world, I was touched by the words she wrote and spoke. And by the woman she was. And her spirit and sheer joy of life.
I discovered this wonderful recording of Angelou reading one of her children’s poems (which is also a stunning Children’s book illustrated by Basquiat), Life Doesn’t Frighten Me. (Wait. Can you even imagine having your book illustrated by BASQUIAT???)
You can view lots of the illustrations from the book and a very well written piece about the book over at Brain Pickings.
You really can’t beat hearing her read it, can you? Her words. Her voice. The rhythm. It is like music. Which is just what all really good picture books should be.
In fact, I think I’ll push that “play” button one more time…
This from The Writer’s Almanac:
Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri (1928), the author of six autobiographical volumes, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). As a teenager, she and her mom and brother moved to San Francisco. There she became a streetcar conductor, the first black person and the first woman to be one there. She was only 16. A few months after graduating from high school, she gave birth to a son. Later, she married a Greek sailor named Tosh Angelos and began using a variation of his surname — Angelou — for her stage name at the Purple Onion cabaret in San Francisco, where she was a calypso dancer. She toured Europe as a dancer in a government-sponsored production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and when she returned to the U.S., she settled in New York City, where she performed off-Broadway, sang at the Apollo Theater, and started going to meetings of the Harlem Writer’s Guild. She met James Baldwin and Jules Feiffer, who thought that she should write about her life in the manner that she spoke, in the “same rhythmical cadences with which she mesmerized” her friends and others with whom she interacted. She did, in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She passed away this week at age 86.