I’ll never be a Maya Angelou. I believe if you talk to most people who become journalists or writers, they will say they realized their serious love for writing in about fifth or sixth grade. At Smith Elementary, it was sixth grade for me — when we read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in Mr. Brook’s literature class.
It was too deep for me to grasp at the time, but I was most impressed with the fact that I was studying something in school that a woman from Arkansas had written. I couldn’t understand her struggle or her pain, so her triumphs were lost on me.
Somehow, an 11-year-old, naive, white girl from Malvern identified with this African American woman who had enjoyed or endured many different experiences. Now that I’m older and have learned more about Angelou and life in general, I have a deeper appreciation for all her works.
I hope that today’s fifth and sixth graders are still required to read excerpts of her work. I know they will continue to inspire young readers and future writers throughout many generations.