Oprah: You can allow goodness to come in, and you can claim it.
Maya: You can ask it in, show it how much you like it, make room for it. And it says, "Oh, I like this place, I think I'll stay here." Which is why people go into one house and say, "I want to take my shoes off." At another house, no matter how beautiful it is, they might say, "Hmm, I can't stay."
Oprah: All of your principles stem from knowing who you are, because when you know who you are, you can say to people, "That will not happen in my home."
Maya: That's right—and if I'm in someone else's home, I will leave. And I'm really not sorry. I just say, "You'll have to excuse me, please, but something is opening up for me on the Burma Road."
Oprah: What are the other principles that define your life?
Maya: I love a statement by the apostle Paul, in the Book of Philippians in the Bible. I think the Corinthians had been writing to Paul, telling him that old men were chasing young women, nobody was tithing—and all that must have run Paul crazy. He wrote back and said, "If there be anything of good report, speak of these things." That's one of my principles. I know it sounds the same [as the one I just mentioned], but it's separate. It's another discipline that I encourage myself to employ—to, as much as possible, say the courteous thing, and then be it.
Oprah: I'm sure that throughout your life, some have said of you, "Who does she think she is?" How do you respond?
Maya: Among other things, "I'm a child of God." That's amazing. And "I'm not only a child of God, but God loves me."
Oprah: The wonder of that.
Maya: It still knocks my socks off!
Oprah: Doesn't knowing that give you freedom?
Maya: Freedom and discipline. Freedom and responsibility. Freedom and a path. Freedom and a row to hoe. Freedom to do something, not freedom to be idle. And the hardest part for me is to realize that while God loves me, and I am a child of God, I have to see the bigot and the brute and the rapist, and whether he or she knows it or not, I have to know that that person is a child of God. That is part of the responsibility—and it's hard.
Oprah: Do you find many things hard now?
Maya: Writing. It has always been hard, even after 20 or so books.
Oprah: I just read that Caged Bird is on the American Library Association's list of the ten books most often requested for banning.
Maya: Yes. But many of the people who want it banned have never read a page of my book.
We Hear You!