I got the bus into town on my own on Saturday and picked this book of essays up to read on the way there and back – and pretty well finished it at the end of my journey. Sometimes it’s nice to just grab something from the shelf to enjoy in a day, isn’t it? This one arrived for my birthday from Ali – it was a special birthday hence the huge pile of books – and of these I have read but a few so far but they are on the top shelf of the TBR. You’ll see a few NetGalley reads from now on as I pick all those up (eight of them, oops!) but here’s a print delight.

Maya Angelou – “Even the Stars Look Lonesome”

(21 January 2021, from Ali)

The first Africans were brought to this country in 1619. I do not mean to cast aspersions on my white brothers and sisters who take such pride in having descended from the Pilgrims, but I would remind them that the Africans landed in 1619, which was one year before the arrival of the Mayflower. We have experienced every indignity the sadistic mind of man could devise. We have been lynched and drowned and beleaguered and belittled and begrudged and befuddled. And yet, here we are. Still here. Here. (p. 125)

Uncompromising, straight-spoken and always up for doing some reframing, here we have Angelou’s essays mainly as an older woman, in her 60s and talking about ageing and also the loss of her mum (with some great stories about her mum to accompany that). She discusses Africa and attitudes to the continent and its countries, tells stories from her past and tells it how it is. Visiting a museum including slave huts, she’s horrified to see a sanitised history of a horrific past, and near the end of the book calls passionately for museums and galleries that show Black people their own faces and experiences reflected back to them. As always, powerful and interesting, and the book could have happily been twice as long!