It was the middle of the winter of 1990. The small college was near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The river next to the rural campus was totally frozen. I was in a warm seminar with 10 other students. Maya Angelou, the reason and center of this seminar, was making comments about fiction in general and the fiction we had written. I was the only student not in the English department. I wanted to be an economist, and so was studying political economy/philosophy in the political science department. I was invited to the seminar by an English professor who saw my investment in economics, and particularly my fascination with the economy of Sweden, as a complete waste of time. He wanted me to switch departments and study literature. I had no such desire. My goals were set. My future was clear.

The night before the seminar, Angelou had given a poetry reading in the main hall (she did indeed read "Phenomenal Woman"). During the seminar, she was full of life and inspiration, and every word she said and gesture she made expressed her sense of the grandness and importance of literature—it's all that could save humanity. When she got around to my short story, which she had read the night before, she located me in the room and said: "You're a writer, Charles!" I told her I wanted to be an economist (my father wanted me to be a doctor—economics, my father's profession, was the compromise). She said: "Don't be foolish. You are a writer and that's what you are." And that was that. How could you even argue with her? She spoke with the force of a person who knows only the deeper truths of life. The next day I changed my major to English and changed my whole life. I owe who I am today to her...

My Fav Book By Maya
  • My Fav Book By Maya