Reading Maya Angelou

I got excited when I finally renewed my New York Public Library card after six months of delaying it. All I really needed to do was print out some proof of current residence, like a utility bill, but I kept putting it off until yesterday. I finally did it and renewed my card, which then allowed me not only to access the general public library system, but also to activate my library card and link it to my Libby app, which gives me free access to any digital version of a book that is available through my phone or Kindle. I successfully linked my account to the app, which now gives me access to any book I’d like for free. That’s tax payer dollars at work! The first book I pulled from my reading list was Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I’m a little embarrassed to be reading this so late at age 33, given that in many schools across the country this is assigned reading, but hey, it’s better late than never, right? I also decided to commit myself to reading this given all the open bigotry and racism so overtly displayed by President Dipshit as of late. It’s always been going on since he started running to be president, but it’s truly gotten out of control in the last few weeks for anyone who has been paying even remote attention to the news.

This autobiography of Angelou is one of her most famous works, and the first of seven total books in her autobiography. She talks about growing up in the segregated south in the 1930s and 40s and all the bigotry and inequities she and her broken family faced. After her parents divorced, her mom moved to St. Louis, her dad moved to California, and they left her and her older brother Bailey with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. The book is easy to follow and immediately sucks you into her world; I’m already half done with it after two evenings of reading it for about an hour each. I think what has really stuck with me is how close she and her brother Bailey are, and how much she truly loves him and constantly expresses it, both in writing and to him. It’s so endearing, yet heartbreaking at the same time. While temporarily in St. Louis staying with their mother and her boyfriend, the mother’s boyfriend rapes Maya. He threatens her and says, “Do you love Bailey?” to which Maya of course confirms she does, very much so. He responds, “If you tell anyone, I will kill him.” She is so shaken by the thought of Bailey dying that she keeps this atrocity she faced at such a young age to herself for days, until finally she got so sick that she had to be hospitalized and was forced to admit the truth.

Bailey kept asking her while in the hospital, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” over and over again. But Maya cannot stomach telling him the truth. She doesn’t want Bailey to know that she was trying to protect him, that she was scared that this man would actually take Bailey’s life.

That’s the power of sibling love. It just really stuck with me through the first half of this book. It reminded me of Ed a lot. He was as protective as he could be of me, and when bad things happened to me that he’d find out about later, he always asked why I wouldn’t tell him sooner. And I always responded the same way: I told him I didn’t want him to worry about me. Yet we did this to each other because he also hid so many things from me… because he didn’t want me to worry about him either.

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