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My Journey with Maya
224 pages; Little, Brown and Company
Popular broadcast personality Tavis Smiley met Dr. Maya Angelou at a pivotal point in his life. At 26, he was adrift; and when a friend offered him the chance to join Dr. Angelou on a trip to Ghana (his official job was to carry her bags), he leapt at the opportunity and a decades-long friendship was born. Here, he recalls their conversations from the '90s up until the end of her life, and every page is saturated with spirit-lifting advice: For instance, remembering her first trip to Ghana in the '60s, Dr. Angelou said she'd intended only to pass through on her way to Nigeria—but when her son, Guy, was in a serious car accident, she was forced to extend her stay. He survived, and she fell in love with a country that ended up being crucial to her development. "From then on, I’ve tried to remind myself that even the harshest news may well carry a blessing," she told Smiley. "It might take a day, a week, a year, or even a lifetime for that blessing to manifest, but manifest it will." Dr. Angelou approached even death with courage and curiosity. At a 2011 speaking event, she rose from her wheelchair to light the crowd on fire. "If you arrived feeling blue, she chased those blues away," Smiley writes. "If you arrived feeling good, you left feeling better." The same can be said of reading Smiley's book.
— Dawn Raffel


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