The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward

“Some days you can’t breathe; you know what that feels like: When you are bored at night and everything bad is loud and important take to the streets. It’s a one-time thing, this life. You’ve got to move. When in doubt, always move. Or you ain’t going to make it.”

416gpO3czjLAn autobiographical poem or a poetic autobiography, Yrsa Daley-Ward’s memoir is a testimony to the tenacity of the human spirit, its ability to contain an immense darkness and release it in waves of destruction, love, and poetry.  As a child, Yrsa and her little brother are raised partly by their strict, religious grandparents and by their single mother. As Yrsa gets older, her body becomes a “haunted unreal place”, where mental illness reigns. Her body is the source of her power as well as her fear. Her story gives voice to the chaos of sexuality, addiction, depression, and anxiety, and the potential for redemption in the form of self-expression.

 

 

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

angelouMaya Angelou’s memoir begins in Stamps, Arkansas during the 1930’s. In this rural community, raised by her grandmother and crippled uncle, she learns from a young age what it means to be a tough woman as she and her family endure the humiliations of racism and prejudice. When her estranged father unexpectedly returns for Maya and her brother, they are introduced to an entirely new cast of family members and misadventures as they transition to life in urban northern cities.

This biography reads like a heartbreaking poem. With a seamless narrative style, Angelou depicts the petty struggles of adolescence alongside the traumatizing injustices of being a young black girl. She recounts her experiences in the refined voice of her adult self while capturing the innocence of her younger version. I loved reading Angelou’s story, and by the last page I was overwhelmed with awe at the woman she becomes.

 

“It seemed terribly unfair to have a toothache and a headache and have to bear at the same time the heavy burden of blackness.”

 “Horatio Alger was the greatest writer in the world. His heroes were always good, always won, and were always boys. I could have developed the first two virtues, but becoming a boy was sure to be difficult, if not impossible.”

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