Book Excerpt: 'My Journey with Maya' by Tavis Smiley

An excerpt of "My Journey with Maya" by Tavis Smiley

Excerpted from the book MY JOURNEY WITH MAYA by Tavis Smiley with David Ritz. Copyright (c) 2015 by Tavis Smiley. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company


I do so to honor my dear friend and, to the best of my ability, give you what she gave me—words and attitudes that invigorate the soul. Maya’s great mission was to demonstrate how courageous love can heal even the deepest wounds. She taught me about bravery, about listening, about language.

The ideas expressed to me were ones she had shared—and would continue to share—with many others. She was remarkably consistent in expressing her loving vision and strategies for spiritual survival. Maya freely spread her sagacity to as many people as possible and in as many forms as possible. I was only one of many who had the good fortune to sit by her side and glean her wisdom.

When we met, I was in my twenties and Maya was in her late fifties, a strong and vital presence. During the course of our twenty-eight-year dialogue, we both faced enormous challenges and went through life-altering changes. Up close, I was privileged to see how Maya responded to those challenges and changes. And most poignantly, I was able to see how she approached what many consider the greatest trial of all: impending mortality.

A brief note about the form of this book:

Maya Angelou was blessed with an extraordinary voice. By quoting her, I strive to convey the haunting beauty and lilting musicality of her storytelling. She told and retold many stories, some of which you’ll read here; other conversations I recount were private and have never appeared anywhere else. In re-creating her voice for this text, I have based quotations on the copious notes I took during our private encounters, the transcripts of our many public conversations, my best recollections, and the complete written works of Maya Angelou.

I hope that by writing down for you Maya’s impact on my life I can shed new light on her luminous character. I miss her every day, and if this book lets you see her, hear her, and feel her spirit, I will be gratified— satisfied that I have done what, in both word and deed, Maya urged us all to do:Pass on the love.