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Letter to my Daughter

Letter to my Daughter
Maya Angelou
166 pages

Letter to my Daughter
is a book of wisdom, a collection of 28 short works -- mostly essays, and a couple of poems. Ms. Angelou doesn't have a daughter (her only child is a son); this book is dedicated to women all around the world. Angelou plumbs the depths of more than 80 years on the planet to serve up bits of her experience as lessons for her readers. Some of the essays, particularly those pertaining to her younger adult years, concern violence and disrespect towards women. In others, Angelou relates cultural blunders or near misses made during her travels. The embedded lesson is usually not about the gaffe itself, but the personal learning and growth that came from it:
In an unfamiliar culture, it is wise to offer no innovations, no suggestions, or lessons.

The epitome of sophistication is utter simplicity. (p. 91)

In fact, most of her lessons came from mistakes. I admired Angelou's ability to expose her own vulnerability for the reader's benefit. My only complaint about this book is that its 166 pages are misleading. Each piece is quite short, usually 2-4 pages. Each essay is padded with additional pages (a cover page, a blank page, etc.), and of course there are obligatory pages about the author, the typeface, and so on. I would have preferred a greater percentage of this book be devoted to Angelou's words of wisdom. Nevertheless, these essays lend themselves well to periodic re-reading, and this book will remain on my shelves to be dipped into later. ( )

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