Nikki Giovanni: “These Are Our Best Years”

nikkiIn 1995 poet and activist, Nikki Giovanni, was diagnosed with lung cancer. She refused to associate with negative outlooks for her future and fired one of her oncologists for setting a date for her death. She underwent surgery and lost a lung but is living, healthy as a cancer survivor. And nearly ten years afterward, Giovanni’s life is still thriving. Below is an account of her recent interview:

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“2005 was a hard year. All my little old ladies — Mommy and Rosa Parks and Edna Lewis — died, and of course my older sister, Gary, so all of a sudden, I had this void in my life.

“I’m still working on filling that void, but first of all, you’re a writer, so you have to write, you know that. I’m a big fan of the power of prayer. You have to pray for the strength to carry on, but it’s not what you want because you want everybody to be 35 years old.

“I think if I didn’t have my art, I would be lost. Nobody can tell you what to do with your pain. I happen to be able to write. Between my mother’s death last June 24th [2005] and now, I completed three books. Acolytes; On My Journey Now (Candlewick Press), where I look at the Negro spirituals — I’m a big, big, big lover of Negro spirituals — and Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka and I revisited the The Grasshopper and the Ant. I just put my head down and worked. You have to deposit that pain someplace and hope that it doesn’t grow.