This last Wednesday, May 28, 2014, American literature lost a treasure. If you’d like to read about her life, I suggest that you click on her photo and you will be directed to her official website. What I’d like to reflect on is a particular story that I have the pleasure and honor to teach every time I teach 9th grade English. It’s very short and it’s called “New Directions”. The short story is about her grandmother who had the intelligence, determination, fortitude, and perseverance to create a thriving business in the early 20th century. I particularly love Angelou’s crafting of sharp detail with poetic detail. In fact, I often use this short story (only about a page or two) to illustrate how those two elements of voice (diction and detail) work together, but are not the same. At the end of the story, Angelou tells the reader the moral of the story when she writes, “Each of us has the right and the responsibility to assess the roads which lie ahead, and those over which we have traveled, and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. If the new choice is also unpalatable, without embarrassment, we must be ready to change that as well.”
This quote speaks to me. It tells me that I have the right and the responsibility to move in a new direction. This is what I’m doing with my life right now. Unlike Annie, Maya’s grandmother, I have a wonderfully supportive husband and my 3 children aren’t “toddling sons” but beautiful girls (17, 15, & 7). I am not poor and I am not an African American women in pre-Civil Rights America. Yet, I feel a kinship with Maya and her grandmother. I think she felt a kinship with any woman who tried to fly. She will be missed.