On first reading, it didn’t seem like a good idea, carving Angelou’s thoughts into meme-sized nuggets. Her claim to fame isn’t brevity. It’s long, ornate lyrical prose that reads like poetry and poetry that reads like complicated anthems. Not short or quippy.
Some of the quotes come across as generic New Age blathering like “all great artists draw from the same resources: the human heart” or painful platitudes like “Nothing will work unless you do.” Some quotes aren’t even hers at all. They are quotes she quoted in other books.
Whoever culled the excerpts didn’t seem to be concerned with context. One cringe-worthy passage, “The wise woman thinks twice and speaks once or, better yet, does not speak at all” sounds like sit-still-look-pretty advice. But it isn’t. It’s a lesson she learned in humility after mistakenly believing she was the most famous person in the room.
Most of her thoughts, even abbreviated, still hit hard. The inspirational “I believe that each of us comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory” makes me feel like I was born to conquer the world. And “only poets care about what happened to the snows of yesteryear” reminds me to move on.
While the book offers some of Angelou’s wisdom, I don’t think it captures her spirit. It’s perfect for someone so familiar with Angelou’s writings that a few words are enough to spark remembrance.
These are the things that still linger in my mind:
Her signature syntax comes across, even in the one sentence quotes.
Much of her advice entails silence, stillness and breathing.
I love the pictures of young Maya Angelou dancing and writing. I’m so used to pictures of her in her later years, I forget there was a journey taken to achieve her wisdom.
She’s a lot funnier and bawdier than I remembered.