It’s been my experience that great writers are typically voracious readers. Award-winning and national bestselling author Margaret Johnson-Hodge is testament to that, and she knows words have power. Today she shares the book that had the power to change her life.
What is the book that changed your life?
Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings—Random House 1969
Tell me about the book.
Joyous and painful, and as mysterious and memorable as childhood itself, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide. Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings continues to touch hearts and change minds, empowering for generations to come.
Why did it impact you?
As the youngest child born to a failing marriage, my childhood wasn’t easy. Home life made me feel unimportant; my existence, irrelevant and I felt powerless and invisible. A saving grace was books. My family loved to read, a passion I acquired at an early age. My father would talk of coming home from work and finding four-year-old me in his easy chair “reading” the Long Island Press, a New York daily that was as long as I was tall. Though I didn’t understand most of the words, I would “read” it, front to back, curious and engaged about the world around me.
By eight, I was reading anything I could get my hands on, and at thirteen I came across I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Brutal, heart-wrenching but powerful, I delved into the life of Ms. Angelou, impacted deeply, not only by all that she survived, but the triumphant life she carved despite it. I knew then that my past would only define my future if I let it. More importantly, if a little “colored” girl who had been struck mute grew up to be a published writer, well maybe I could become a writer too. So, at the age of 13, I sat down to the family electronic typewriter and began what would 28 years later become my first published novel—The Real Deal. I still have the original manuscript!
Is there anything you would like to add?
I had the honor of meeting Ms. Angelou in 1978. She gave me an autograph and an address where to write her. I did and she wrote me back. I still have both…priceless.
The written word has changed my life for the better. I strongly believe in its power. It’s one of the reasons that beyond having fourteen published works, with two more (Promised and Penny Candy Dreams) to be released this year, I give writing workshops. I’m a witness to how putting words onto paper can make a huge difference in someone’s life and there is nothing more fulfilling than see the empowerment that occurs when someone writes something more beautiful and wonderful than they ever imagined they could. That’s the true power of books—black ink on ecru pages, transforming lives, page by page, tome by tome.
I invite you to find out more about me and my life as a writer by visiting my website: www.mjhodge.net.
Use my affiliate link to purchase your copy of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.