Letter to My Daughter
by Maya Angelou


Random House, 2008. ISBN 978-1-400-06612-4.
Reviewed by Jennifer Melville
Posted on 10/06/2008
Review of the Month, November 2008

Nonfiction: Life Lessons

"I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian and Spanish-speaking, Native American and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all. Here is my offering to you," writes Maya Angelou in the introduction of her inspirational new book Letter to My Daughter. The following pages are full of stories and life lessons Angelou has learned over eighty years. "I have only included here events and lessons which I have found useful," the famous poet writes. "I have not told you how I have used the solutions, knowing you are intelligent and creative and resourceful and will use them as you see fit."

There are few books that I love so much I would read again. This is one of them. I got Angelou's Letter to My Daughter in the mail around 4 p.m. and finished it before bed. I read it to my children as they played, read it after they had gone to sleep, and far into the evening hours. Angelou's words were so poetic and musical I felt as if she were speaking directly to me. I learned of her best and worst moments in life, her ideas about love, death, violence, patriotism and spirituality. I really liked how she illustrated an important situation in her life without telling the reader what to take away from the scene.

My favorite story was when Angelou visited the famous actress Samia in Sengal. Angelou had heard that women in Egypt did not let their guests walk on their gorgeous Persian rugs and decided to test her hostess. She noticed the other guests at Samia's party were not stepping on the rugs and believed Samia had informed them not to do so. So Angelou walked on them, back and forth, back and forth. The other guests smiled at her weakly. Angelou engaged in a conversation with a fellow writer and barely noticed the maids rolling up the rug and replacing it with an equally beautiful floor covering. The maids covered the rug with place settings and dinner. Angelou had been walking all over their table cloth! She was so embarrassed she could barely eat. "In an unfamiliar culture, it is wise to offer no innovations, no suggestions, or lessons," Angelou wrote.

Here is one of my favorite paragraphs in the book: "You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution."

Letter to My Daughter is a gem of wisdom and inspiration. Every woman should read it at least once. This book has become a permanent fixture in my personal library.


Dr. Maya Angelou is an American poet, writer, performer, teacher, director, and civil rights activist. She has written twelve best selling books, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In 1993, she became the second poet in US history to write and recite a piece of work for the presidential inauguration. She has been nominated for several Grammy awards and has received over 50 honorary degrees from universities around the world.

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