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RIP Dr. Maya Angelou. The internationally acclaimed poet died May 28 in her Winston-Salem, N.C. home, aged 86. Above, she reads ‘And Still I Rise,’ from the eponymous 1978 collection

Angelou’s first autobiographical memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) brought her critical acclaim; among other achievements she read her work, ‘On the Pulse of Morning,’ at the swearing in of President Bill Clinton. She received the Presidential Medal of Honor in Freedom in 2011.  

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,   

The stride of my step,   

The curl of my lips.   

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,   

That’s me.

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,   

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.   

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.   

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,   

And the flash of my teeth,   

The swing in my waist,   

And the joy in my feet.   

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,   

They say they still can’t see.   

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,   

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.   

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.   

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,   

The bend of my hair,   

the palm of my hand,   

The need for my care.   

’Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Review - Not My Father's Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming

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I’ve read my share of celebrity memoirs in the past (maybe, embarrassingly, more than I’d like to admit), so when I was given the opportunity to score an advanced reader copy of Alan Cumming’s memoir I jumped on it. Past experiences had left me with the expectation of a read that would be either a string of personal vignettes that aren’t very connected or emotionally engaging to funny but impersonal and on to the extremely narcissistic. Asking for this book, I hoped for something closer to the first variety, maybe examining the journey of a man coming in to his bisexuality and fame. What I never expected at all was the almost immediate punch in the emotional gut that was this memoir.

Cumming really dashed my expectations (and I’m glad for it). While his sexuality was present (bisexuality is named once and his former marriage to Hilary Lyon and his husband Grant Shaffer are both important components of the story he shares), this wasn’t a memoir that lingered with any real focus on that, or on the vagaries of his fame. Instead we have a deeply personal, and deeply engaging, exploration of Cumming’s relationship with and understanding of his deeply abusive father set amongst his personal journey to better understand a familial mystery set around his maternal grandfather and his mysterious death in post WWII Malaysia.

As a man who has also spent his entire life in a complicated non-relationship with an abusive father, this book drew me in like no other. The absolutely frank discussions of his father’s abuse, of the inner mind of an abused child, of his depression, his struggles with an eating disorder, his break downs, his triumphs and his tears are all so honest and engaging I think it would tug at the empathy of any who would read it. This is by far the most non-celebrity celebrity memoir I’ve ever picked up, and I’m so very thankful for it.

In the bisexual community (as in many others), representation is so vital to us, so sought after. I think it’s truly important to have also found non-sensationalized representation for victims of abuse, particular parental abuse. So many of our numbers have struggled with abuse. I for one am thankful for this memoir, for this representation. But for the fame, this could be my story. It could be any of ours.

—Evan

So for Napoleon’s anniversary I decided to make a post with links to a limited selection of books about him. I’m not discovering nothing new, since all of them are on the public domain, but I think a post were they are reunited can be useful for those interested on the napoleonic era. There is much more out there, you only have to search for them, either at the Internet Archive, Google books or Gallica.

- Correspondence

Napoleon’s own writings and letters are, of course, the first source if you are interested in his personality. Under the Second Empire, an attempt was made to publish Napoleon’s entire correspondence. This edition is available online, but it’s a censored one. A complete correspondence, including the letters which weren’t considered appropiate for the first one, is currently going under publication. The same goes for his letters to Josephine,submitted to censorship since 1833, when Hortense reunited a limited number of them in two volumes, of course without the too intimate bits (there is an integral, uncensored edition published in 1981, but not available online).

- The Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène:

  • French editions of 1823, 18401842,
  • English edition, 1836: Volume I, II, III, IV.
  • Spanish edition (a.k.a Diario de la Isla de Santa Helena), Volume I, II, III, IV, V-VI, VII
  • Italian edition (Memoriale di Sant’Elena), Volume I , II,III

-More about Saint-Helena

- Childhood and youth

- Memoirs.

Certain fictional doctor said it for me: Everyone lies. Yes, you’ll have to remember this when reading memoirs from the napoleonic era. Frequently ghostwritten or published decades after the events, they must not be relied blindly. Some of them are apologetic, some of them pathologically hostile, and a bunch of their authors created myths that seem impossible to debunk. This is a selection:

(Also feel free to add your own links!)

I’m looking at you right now, sleeping, so soft, so peaceful, not a single hint of the stress the military put on your shoulders. I see heaven around you, I feel hell burning my skin wherever you touch me, I’m looking at you… through the screen of my computer, wishing I could be laying next to you.
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