Even the Stars look Lonesome by Maya Angelou. Random House. 1997.
A House Can Hurt, a Home Can Heal
Insouciance– casual lack of concern; indifference (Page 3).
“I returned to the house on a dark evening and was reminded of something I had said to an interviewer years earlier. I had been asked what I would like as my last meal if I was going to die. I had replied, “I don’t want to think that far ahead, but if I were going to Mars tomorrow I would like to have a hot chicken, a chilled bottle of white wine and a loaf of good bread.” When I went into the darkened house, I was greeted by the aroma of roast chicken. There was a note on the refrigerator that read, “There is a hot chicken in the oven, a cold bottle of wine in the fridge and a loaf (Page 7) of good bread on the cutting board. Thank you for the good times.” Now, that’s the kind of man I wanted to marry and did marry.”
This is so beautiful because their marriage ended amicably, they were mature about it and understood one another so well that they had come to terms with the fact that they weren’t good for and to each other. I favor this extract because it is generally difficult for people to write about failed relationships.
“This is no longer my house, it is my home. And because it is my home, I have not only found myself healed of the pain of a broken love affair, but discovered that when (Page 9) something I have written does not turn out as I had hoped, I am not hurt so badly. I find that my physical ailments, which are a part of growing older, do not depress me so deeply. I find that I am quicker to laugh and much quicker to forgive” (Page 10).
This extract brings two thoughts to mind. Firstly, home is what you make of it and home can be anywhere. Secondly, it is important to accept your path in life and to accept the things you cannot change, in order to find peace.
“African history and culture have been shrouded in centuries of guilt and ignorance and shame. The African Slaves themselves, separated from their tribesmen and languages, forced by the lash to speak another tongue immediately, were unable to convey the stories of their own people, their deeds, rituals, religions and beliefs.”(Page 15).
This speaks to the idea that African History has been erased but even though that happened, people have continued to carry their history in their minds and to convey it orally to those around them. It also speaks to the importance of history itself. In addition to this, it informs how people’s perspectives influence how they write about history.
“African culture is alive and well. An African proverb spells out the truth: “The ax forgets. The tree remembers.” (Page 17).
This proverb speaks not only to African culture being alive and well but also to how people who have oppressed Black people, have forgotten what they have done yet Black people will never forget what has been done to them. It speaks to this idea that Black people should simply forget what has happened in the past and move on which is easier said than done.
“Mostly, what I have learned so far about aging despite the creakiness of one’s bones and the cragginess of ones once-silken skin, is this: do it. By all means, do it.” (Page 24)
Aging is inevitable and the sooner we accept it, the easier it is for us to live fulfilling lives. I believe that we put so much pressure on ourselves to remain young that we fail to accept that our beauty is timeless and that aging simply adds to that beauty.
Godfrey, Cambridge and Fame
“The trouble for the receiver is not how to accept a gift but with what grace the recipient shares it.” (Page 31)
This is true but it extends beyond tangible gifts but also to what one does with the gift of life and how we lives our lives. Gratitude is indeed attitude of the heart.
A Song to Sensuality
This chapter focuses on the beauty and intricacies of sensuality and even further of all of our senses. It speaks to embracing all of our senses wholly.
They Came to Stay
am a black woman
tall as a cypress
beyond all definition still
on me and be
by Mari Evans
“Black women whose ancestors were brought to the United States beginning in 1619 have lived through conditions of cruelties so horrible, so bizarre, the women had to reinvent themselves.” (Page 41).
This speaks to the current lives of Black women, constantly having to reinvent themselves , constantly having to encounter cruel situations. It never ends for the Black woman; the struggle that is.
“Black women became realities only to themselves. To others they were mostly seen and described in the abstract, concrete in their labour but surreal in their humanness. They knew the burden of feminine sensibilities suffocated by masculine responsibilities.”(Page 42)
Black women, carry Black women, Black women support Black women, Black women protect Black women, Black women stand alone, yet stand in solidarity.
“Surprisingly, above all, many women did survive as themselves. We meet them, undeniably strong, unapologetically direct.”(Page 44)
Black women have encountered many hardships but have risen each time life has knocked them down. Their resilience is astounding.
“Their wombs have held the promise of a race that has proved in each challenging century that despite threats and mayhem it has come to stay.” (Page 44)
This is beautiful, Black people are not going anywhere.
Mother and Freedom
“I pray I shall have the courage to liberate my mother when the time comes, she would expect that from me.” (Page 49)
This is n exceptionally beautiful chapter as it speaks to how her mother liberated her and allowed her to set her own path and how , while her mom was fighting cancer, she would have to liberate her mother. It seems to be a cyclical nature that has been created.
In this chapter it’s almost as if Angelou is warning the reader to guard their hearts, to be cautious of whom they allow into their live and who they make themselves vulnerable to.
“She was born poor and powerless in a land where
power is money and money is adored.
Born black in a land where might is white
and white is adored.
Born female in a land where decisions are masculine
and masculinity controls.” (Page 60)
This speaks to how being born Black and female in a world that is dominated by white males means that one will have to fight for their place in society and will have to fight to be recognized. There is this idea that Black women are doubly disempowered by being both Black and a woman.
Angelou emphasizes how important it is to have time to ourselves, to do what we deem necessary and what is good for our soul. (Page 75).
Age and Sexuality
” I’m a woman, I’m not a damn rock.” (Page 83)
This speaks to more than just the woman’s sexuality, it speaks to how women are expected to take what the world gives them without showing or having any emotion. But this also reminds me of the IsiXhosa saying “wathint’ abafazi, wathint’mbokodo” which means, “You strike a woman, you strike a rock.”
Rural Museums-Southern Romance
“I was reminded that ignorance is not genetic. A lack of courage allows us to remain blinded to our own history and deaf to the cries of the past.” (Page 95)
This is so beautiful as it can be relayed across several issues. We do not need to adopt the attitudes of our parents but need to adopt our own attitudes. We also need to understand our history and to understand the plight of our people.
I Dare to Hope
“Divide the masses that you may conquer them; separate them and you can rule them.” (Page 99)
This is exactly how people gain power over other people. This chapter speaks about how there is always hope because if our forefathers were able to make it through their troublesome times, so should we be able to make it through ours.
For as long as there is poverty in the world, we have not progressed as a nation. We need to ensure that even the ‘poorest’ person does not suffer under the rule of the country or the law, they too , need to feel like they are human beings.
Danger in Denial
It is so easy for Black men to belittle Black women, seemingly they have forgotten that Black men and women experienced, by force, slavery together and that they encountered hardships together. This unity should mean that Black men should respect Black women and should become a united force as opposed to being separated. This is why the movement #MenAreTrash was created because the patriarchal gender order in the world is something that needs to first be debunked and then eradicated rom society.
The Rage Against Violence
When approaching situations of danger, Angelou believes that one should allow themselves to get mad before they get scared, in order to protect yourself. Being mad first means that instinctively you will protect yourself and not act out of fear.
Art for the Sake of the Soul
This is one of the most touching chapters for me as Angelou explains how Art has kept Black people going, has given them courage to stand up for what they believe in, it has made waves in their countries, it has ensured that their history is not erased. Art is a form of expression, it is a way of life, it is our safe haven, it is what has kept us alive.
Those who really know Teach
This Chapter is a tribute to Angelou’s mother and the great teacher her mother was. Her mom was not only a great teacher academically but also a great teacher of life.
Even the Stars look Lonesome Sometimes
Angelou emphasizes yet again, the importance of solitude, of being content in ones space, of nurturing the silence and hearing our own voices and in that silence, hopefully hearing God’s voice as well.