MY JOURNEY WITH MAYA by Tavis Smiley

MY JOURNEY WITH MAYA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Veteran talk show host Smiley (Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Year, 2014, etc.) chronicles his relationship with Maya Angelou (1928-2014), his intellectual and spiritual guide.

The author recounts how, as an eager and insecure young man, he was in awe of the multitalented woman who "dispens[ed] love with such natural and joyful ease…[it] drew people to her.” Dr. Angelou gently scolded Smiley for his "idolatrous attitude,” yet he writes about her with such fascination and awe it approaches hagiography. The woman he came to call "Mother Maya" (she affectionately called him "young Tavis Smiley") was his Buddha: a teacher, a wise elder, and a gentle corrector of his behavior, thoughts, and perspective. He remained a student at her feet, though some readers might regard him as overly fawning. Smiley wisely shapes what he learned from Angelou in the form of conversations they had over decades. The resulting narrative, comprised of Angelou’s words as speeches, stories, and lectures, appropriately keeps the focus on the woman and her teachings rather than Smiley’s own (impressive) credentials. To his credit, he shares Angelou's criticism of his BET interview show—that he's very prepared and informed but also too eager to speak and not a good listener. Here, Smiley proves to be a faithful recorder of Angelou’s poise, compassion, and dignity. Throughout, he illustrates how Angelou regularly combined practicality and spirituality. “Her practical advice—be assertive, not aggressive,” writes the author. “Her spiritual advice—be yourself.”

Readers might feel regret for not having the privilege of meeting Angelou personally, but Smiley has faithfully re-created both her voice's "haunting beauty and lilting musicality" and the experience of receiving her transformative wisdom, humor, and compassion.

Pub Date: April 7th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-316-34175-2
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2015




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Kirkus Interview
Tavis Smiley
author of DEATH OF A KING
November 6, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr. died in one of the most shocking assassinations the world has known, but little is remembered about the life he led in his final year. In Death of a King, New York Times bestselling author and award-winning broadcaster Tavis Smiley recounts the final 365 days of King's life, revealing the minister's trials and tribulations—denunciations by the press, rejection from the president, dismissal by the country's black middle class and militants, assaults on his character, ideology, and political tactics, to name a few—all of which he had to rise above in order to lead and address the racism, poverty and militarism that threatened to destroy our democracy. We caught up with Smiley at the Texas Book Festival to ask him about the book. View video >

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