Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

A Good Cry: What We Learn From Tears and Laughter

Rate this book
One of America’s most celebrated poets looks inward in this powerful collection, a rumination on her life and the people who have shaped her.

The poetry of Nikki Giovanni has spurred movements, turned hearts and informed generations. She’s been hailed as a firebrand, a radical, a healer, and a sage; a wise and courageous voice who has spoken out on the sensitive issues, including race and gender, that touch our national consciousness.

As energetic and relevant as ever, Nikki now offers us an intimate, affecting, and illuminating look at her personal history and the mysteries of her own heart. In A Good Cry, she takes us into her confidence, describing the joy and peril of aging and recalling the violence that permeated her parents’ marriage and her early life. She pays homage to the people who have given her life meaning and joy: her grandparents, who took her in and saved her life; the poets and thinkers who have influenced her; and the students who have surrounded her. Nikki also celebrates her good friend, Maya Angelou, and the many years of friendship, poetry, and kitchen-table laughter they shared before Angelou’s death in 2014.

111 pages, Hardcover

First published October 24, 2017

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Nikki Giovanni

116 books1,071 followers
Yolande Cornelia "Nikki" Giovanni is a Grammy-nominated American poet, activist and author. She has written numerous volumes of poetry and has been honored with loads of awards, including 20 honorary degrees from national colleges and universities. Her poems are undeniably authentic distillations of black life in America. She was editor of Fisk University's literary magazine. She lives in Blacksburg, Virginia, where she is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
446 (40%)
4 stars
442 (40%)
3 stars
181 (16%)
2 stars
27 (2%)
1 star
9 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 199 reviews
Profile Image for Bree Hill.
772 reviews575 followers
November 2, 2017
Nikki Giovanni is a master at making ordinary life..making breakfast, walking down the street seem so beautiful. This collection of poetry was such an insightful look into her life. My heart broke learning of her parents and their relationship..but I was filled with so much joy and gratitude for her grandparents. Reading this as a lover of Her, I just want to reach out and thank all of the people in her life she loves lol and thank them for helping mold her into the woman she is who puts this beautiful Poetry into the world. I especially loved the end where her works focus on her friendship with Dr. Maya Angelou. I’m a firm believer in you are the company you keep and how bad ass would it have been to be able to say your company consists of Maya Angelou! I teared Up reading her poems and essays for her. I really really loved this.
Profile Image for Jean.
1,701 reviews736 followers
February 18, 2018
I read poetry, or I should say I prefer to listen to poetry, particularly if read by the author. But I rarely write a review as I am unsure how to go about it. February is Black History Month. In honor of this I chose to read this book of poems by Giovanni.

This book covers a variety of love poems: love of a women for a man, a parent for a child, a child for a parent, for grandparents, food, words and learning. Some of the poems also cover the Civil Rights Era. The first part of the book is poems read one after the other. The last part of the book Giovanni explains why she wrote a poem that she is about to read. She also tells a bit about her life and of people important to her career. I was most interested in her long-time friendship with Maya Angelou. I enjoyed listening to her poems particularly the rhythm of her words. I look forward to listening to more poems of Giovanni.

Yolande Comelia “Nikki” Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. She was educated at the University of Pennsylvania, Fisk University and Columbia University. She is a professor at Virginia Tech University. She has won many awards for her poetry and writings. One of the most recent is being a finalist for the 2018 Audie Award for Best Narration by the Author. The book is almost three hours.
Profile Image for chantel nouseforaname.
624 reviews304 followers
March 1, 2019
I loved all the pieces dedicated to legendary, literary, contributors to black excellence from Claudia Whitworth and Rita Dove to Maya Angelou. Giovanni is a legendary contributor to black excellence herself and I love to see all the love and praises passed around!

But just as much love and praise that she shines on the contributions of great writers; there's also a pain expressed regarding topics of neglect, domestic abuse and intimate partner violence at a few spots in this work that stood out very clearly to me here and they were heart-wrenching.

'Remembering Maya' and 'A Sincere Apology' are two major high-key highlights from this work. She brought back the joy of Maya Angelou through sharing her personal interactions with her and she also shared the complexities of friendships and working peer relationships. It was a beautiful read.
Profile Image for Jean.
346 reviews50 followers
October 25, 2017
This is another one that I read through very quickly just to get a feel for the rhythm of the writing even though I knew it would be a phenomenal read. Now I'm just reveling in the life of Giovanni. Of course, I'll purchase my own copy, that's a must.
Profile Image for Katya.
62 reviews16 followers
February 5, 2018
I love Nikki Giovanni, and there were some poems that really resonated with me, but the collection on the whole fell a little flat in my heart. That said, the beautiful thing about poetry (and a smattering of prose, in this case) is that I may read it again in the future, under different circumstances, and with brand new eyes, and it might speak to me then. I would certainly give it another go down the line. 3.5 stars, rounded up for the 10 or so works that I found memorable.

Profile Image for K2.
636 reviews10 followers
July 6, 2018
This is a GreatRead! I love the way she pays Homage to Others, So cool!
Profile Image for cierra carter.
53 reviews
February 16, 2019
this whole time i thought i hated poetry when the reality of the situation was i’d never read nikki giovanni
Profile Image for Caroline.
1,116 reviews2 followers
March 18, 2020
A beautiful book of poetry. Some very touching dedications, like those to Maya Angelou. This was a quick but heartfelt read and I really enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Meghan Burke.
Author 3 books12 followers
August 3, 2020
Strongly recommend an audio “read” if available. Hearing these poems on love, rural life, race, parents, friends, the academy, and more, in her voice, made it a pleasure. Thanks, local library!
Profile Image for Shannon Whitehead.
118 reviews38 followers
October 14, 2019
I've always admired Nikki Giovanni and was happy to finally hold her latest poetry collection in my hands. It's simple and beautiful and includes an intimate ode to her friend, Maya Angelou. Her magic is in illuminating day-to-day moments and writing stunning tributes to her dearest loved ones. My favorites were Baby West, Surveillance, and Afeni.

Let's connect: Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
Profile Image for Chris Roberts.
Author 1 book46 followers
November 16, 2017
Reach starry desolation heights,
if writing is a religion and you are an acolyte,
lay down a devotion, a reverie - a breath.

To pick-up this collection, weep that it is dust.

Chris Roberts, God Today
Profile Image for LeeTravelGoddess.
751 reviews49 followers
August 1, 2018

I loved that she spoke on Tupac. I loved that she paused, laughed and even had moments of reverence in this book of poetry. I enjoyed it as I have enjoyed all of the books that Auntie Nikki has written. 💚💚💚
Profile Image for Karen.
1,500 reviews
July 9, 2017
A stew, a hash, a scramble of praise-poems, memories, moments of looking forward and back. Very straight-forward, and warm, Giovanni faces her own age in a practical, hopeful way. She's inspiring.
Profile Image for Kingtchalla83 .
193 reviews5 followers
April 9, 2020
April is National Poetry Month!

Nikki Giovanni makes you laugh, cry, reminisce, explore, raise your fist, crave food, and libations. She pays homage to what was, what is, and what will be - honoring everyday men and women as well as titans of industry in arts, music, and politics. Nikki delves into aging, sickness, domestic violence she witnessed as a child, her beautiful grandparents, and the healing effects of crying. She reveals so much about herself in this volume.

Favorite poems: “Baby West,” “Nikki Giovanni: A Look at the Development of This Small Business,” “If I Have to Hospital,” “The Past….The Present….The Future”, “Konko in the Rain,” “For Ruby Dee,” “Black Lives Matter (Not a Hashtag), “We, Too,” “Diamond Anniversary,” “Surveillance,” “NYC (Then & Now,” “We Marched (Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Sisterhood of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority) and all the poems honoring Maya Angelou.

I had the pleasure of meeting Nikki Giovanni on February 16, 2018, at the University of Houston, my alumni, the night Black Panther released. The diminutive firecracker had the audience in stitches, and it was a night I’d never forget. This woman, a cancer survivor and recovering from a partial mastectomy, stayed and signed every single book, program, and vinyl record. I stood and watched in awe; she gave a piece of herself to everyone that night despite being sick.

I commented about something and she implied that might be the topic of her next book!
Profile Image for Jenna Colturi.
14 reviews
January 19, 2023
Nikki’s made such a significant mark on the Virginia Tech community, and this is just one small example of that. I remember being a student in her class - desperately trying to soak up every word she spoke. I felt the same reading her poetry again. My library copy is now covered in sticky notes, and I really miss VT.

“We seek Antarctica because we who are Appalachian understand the talking of the wind and the quiet of the Midnight Sun.” Space: Our Frontier

“There is really nothing / We can do / About the Past / We cannot be untapped / We cannot or at least / Should not take back / Degrees because we no longer / Like the person” The Past… The Present… The Future

“Leaning over the sink / With a bit of real lemonade dripping down / My chin / I feel the coolness / Float into my lungs / And that blessed relief / That says Thirst / Has been Satisfied // Feeling myself once again blossom / I smile / Return to bed / And await my next / adventure” Thirst

“I like the idea of something so light / It can gently fall on my tongue / Yet so dense that once fallen / Cannot easily be lifted” On a Snowy Day

“Ut Prosim more / Gently defined / is: / That I may enhance your life” The Old Man of the Mountain

Go Hokies.

144 reviews14 followers
June 30, 2020
4.5 stars

I truly adored this collection of poems. Nikki Giovanni has this rare ability to beautifully construct poems on subjects we typically take for granted, such as sliced bread and butter. She covers a wide range of topics in this collection, ranging from her childhood, Virginia Tech, Black Lives Matter, education, and her friendships, particularly with Maya Angelou.

There were three topics that stood out to me in this collection: Her childhood and living with an abusive father, the distinction between a school and education, and the dedication to her special friendship with Maya Angelou. Those particular areas were at times tough to read, but were extremely raw and heartfelt.

I may be biased because Nikki is a distinguished professor at my alma mater, but her ode to Virginia Tech really touched my heart. I remember being present when she gave a thundering speech about perseverance and prevailing as one united body. I will never forget how her words made me felt during that difficult time.

I'll be the first to admit that poetry is not usually the type of literature I reach for, but it's certainly something I want to read more of in the future.

Thank you to William Morrow/Harper Collins for a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Tyler Julian.
Author 1 book16 followers
June 10, 2020
“...and most especially
I’m proud
Black Lives Matter

We Do

We honestly
Do” (from “Black Lives Matter (Not a Hashtag)”)

Not only is reading this joy-filled collection timely, but it is also a powerful look back at the last 50+ years of the Black experience in America, as seen through the eyes of a woman who has recorded it diligently since the 1960s. These pages are filled with challenge and promise, human moments and deep reflections. Giovanni humanizes larger than life historical figures with friendly candor and elevates the mundane with a shrewd eye for detail. Since taking a course that spent a lot of time with Black Arts Movement writers a year ago, I wanted to read more Giovanni and I am very happy to have found this collection now.
Profile Image for Kourtney.
141 reviews
March 19, 2021
I'll be honest poetry isn't something I often read, especially not in collections or large doses, I'm just not drawn to it. Part of my 2021 reading challenge was to read more poetry.

I don't think this collection can really have a star rating because it isn't just one poem taken out and rated but the whole sum of poems and the feeling it leaves you with, but that being said I'd give it a solid 3.5 to 4 for most of the poems so I'll round to 4 overall for the collection. I may not have understood the meaning behind every poem but I felt the overall story as I continued to read. There were some that spoke to me and touched me emotionally and some that I found I glossed over without meaning to (again I say I'm really not that great at poetry). I think her commentary on education was my favorite and most noted poem from this collection.

Her poems about Maya Angelou really got my heart aching. Giovanni had lines that were pure poetic genius and I really can't say a bad word about her writing. So while I won't give it a star rating I will say that I enjoyed reading outside my comfort zone and I felt moved by her poems to write in my own journal about life and love.
Profile Image for Harper Miller.
Author 6 books437 followers
November 5, 2017
This book of poetry is a little over 100 pages and a quick read, but I didn’t want it to be a quick read. I took my time because I wanted to savor this gem. Nikki Giovanni has a brilliant relationship with words. She captures nostalgia, heartache, and friendship so wonderfully. Stand out pieces for me: Space: Our Frontier, Nikki Giovanni: A Look at the Development of this Small Business, The Past ... The Present ... The Future, Black Lives Matter (Not A Hashtag) and so many more.

I adored this volume so very much. Ms. Giovanni’s way with words has always been magical to me, and in this piece of work, her magic continues to shine.
Profile Image for Abbi.
235 reviews4 followers
January 3, 2019
"We recognized you cannot be anti-abortion while supporting Capital Punishment; By what right must I birth him that you put him in the electric chair; Or in prison for life for a crime he did not commit"

I borrowed this from my local library on a whim; and I'm so glad that I did. I don't read much poetry anymore let alone poetry that doesn't rhyme (don't judge me); but Nikki Giovanni's collection, A Good Cry, confirmed that I need to include books of poetry in my reading selections going forward.
Profile Image for Nancy Hirstein Smith.
60 reviews7 followers
January 20, 2020
This is my first book of poetry I’ve read cover to cover. It was an intimate story of how trauma in the poet’s life shut down the part of her that could cry, a status she be cried. She learned to weep - with grief - after the death of her great friend, Maya Angelou.

In this, except for the nature of the trauma, we are alike.

This collection is also humbling in how few people, historical figures she called out I recognized without looking them up.

A great first choice - poetic, relatable, impressionistic, moving, humbling. All I’ve always understood poetry should be.
Profile Image for Bethany Loper.
76 reviews2 followers
March 26, 2020
I started this collection off feeling terrible that I could not get in to it...I wanted to so badly because its Nikki Giovanni! A name that holds so much weight and power in the poetry community. I'm glad I spent more time with it. I read some of the pieces out loud and they started speaking back to me. Then, I watched her perform pieces from the book on YouTube and now I feel it right where I'm supposed to. Words from the soul 💗 3.5 stars.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 199 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.