I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in high school, as many of my generation did, and was inspired by Angelou’s poetic prose. She spoke to me in a way that many other writers I read in high school did not. Maybe this was because she was poet and a prose writer, and I love that combination (tho I did not know that at the time). But I think it was something deeper. She wrote from her heart and although she was 40 years older than me, and I grew up a white woman in the Midwest, I felt close to her when I read her work. Her life felt real, in the way that the lives of other writers did not.
I didn’t realize until I read her obituary that I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was her debut. What a debut it was! She went on to publish a series of memoirs, but I have only read the first one. I now have more books to add to my list.
As I scour the Internet reading about her life and accomplishments I thought I would share a few links that stood out.
- This interview from the Paris Review, in 1990, gives a glimpse into her writer’s life and how she wrote Caged Bird.
- USA Today did a nice round up of powerful Maya Angelou quotes. In reading them, I’m moved by her ability to accept life as it is, while simultaneously believing that we all have the power for great things, no matter where we come from or how much defeat we absorb. She was a mentor to Oprah, and in reading the quotes, I can see the influence. Thank you Maya Angelou for this one:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Interview for Beautifully Said Magazine (2012)
- Did you know that Maya Angelou tweeted? Her final Tweet was: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”
May you rest in peace. Your voice, and debut, will live with us forever.
Since the last two books I reviewed were debut, but not new novels, I wanted to mention three new debuts that I have seen getting some positive press. I read about the first two in a recent copy of Oprah magazine. It nice to see how she consistently supports new writers.
Y, Marjorie Celona
A coming-of-age story of a young woman, Shannon, whose mother abandons her at birth. The novel recounts two stories: Shannon’s life until the age of 17 and the days leading up to her birth, when her mother decides to give her up. Sounds like a powerful story.
Truth in Advertising, John Kenney
In a totally different vein, this book is a comedy about a Madison Avenue copywriter who, while challenged by a diaper ad campaign, begins to reassess the choices he has made in life. A story about work, love and family.
Good Kids, Benjamin Nugent
Two teenagers witness their parents kissing in a natural food store and make a pact to never cheat on anyone in their lives only to meet again in their late 20s and have to reevaluate their pact. A romance that probes Generation Y and Boomer cultures.
Next week, I review Melanie Schnell’s, While the Sun is Above Us. A moving book about the Sudan by an emerging Canadian author.
Oprah started a new book club, Oprah 2.0, and with her second book choice she is launching the career of Ayana Mathis. Mathis’ The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a debut novel, out next year, that tells the story of a teenage girl making the Great Migration from Georgia to Philadelphia. Oprah likens the book to Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
As the Best Books Of lists start to come out, Kevin Powers not only won the Guardian First Book Award, but he made it on to the NYT ten best books list for 2012 for his debut Yellow Birds.
Over at the Goodreads Choice Awards, Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which I reviewed last week, came in in the top ten, as did another book I will review later this month, Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home. They are two of a handful of debut books I saw on that list.
Any debut books you particularly liked from this year? Leave a comment with the author name and title.