Maya Angelou was Deeper than a Pithy Quote
by Mary Schmich
Since her death
"When you get, give. When you learn, teach."
"Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud."
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."
Quotes like this:
"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope."
"I am a Woman
"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."
I'm a sucker for a good quote -- who isn't? -- and Angelou was a master. Even before she died, I'd gotten a lot of quote mileage from that line about people remembering how you made them feel.
But it's vaguely unsettling to see the work of this phenomenal woman reduced to self-help aphorisms, as if she were just Dr. Phil with flashy hats.
I don't say this as a
What are we missing when we reduce
They both said approximately the same thing.
Her work. We're missing her work. The work she created. The work it took to make it. The work of earning the wisdom she preached.
"She didn't publish her first book until she was around 40," said the
"She had studied with some of the best writers in
He went on about the work she invested in her work.
"A part of the writer's trial," he said, "is to go beneath the surface of the question. That requires that you ask the question continually in your own mind. And that you read, read, read, study, study, study and then interact."
None of that is evident in a quotable quote.
"Her work captures what it means to be a black woman in the 20th and 21st Century and that cannot be reduced to quotes," she said. "It's complicated and nuanced."
When we reduce Angelou to her quotable quotes, Ellis said, we miss "that she was a craftsperson, an amazing storyteller."
Nevertheless, I couldn't resist asking Ellis if she had a favorite
She read it aloud:
"When I was three and Bailey four, we had arrived in the musty little town, wearing tags on our wrists which instructed -- 'To Whom It May Concern' -- that we were
That's not a quotable quote. It's an artful invitation to continue reading a story that is deeper than a quote.
Death is an occasion to get to know someone better. The publicity surrounding Angelou's death has provided a lot of people with the occasion to look more closely at her life and her writing.
Her writing includes some good quotes, and the quotes may be part of the reason many people are looking beyond them.
It's a story that shows that Angelou didn't just preach the virtues of courage, resilience and forgiveness. She learned them.
Available at Amazon.com:
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Article: Copyright © 2014, Tribune Content Agency
"Maya Angelou was Deeper than a Pithy Quote "