For Maya Angelou, this line from an ancient spiritual epitomizes the civil rights struggle in 1957, a struggle in which she was intimately involved on many levels. Continuing the autobiography she started with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she reveals her personal life from 1957 - 1965, drawing the reader into the individual, human costs of segregation and detailing her passion and commitment to end it. It is her additional commitment to the welfare of her son, however, and her determination that he will become a man of honesty and principle that unites the several sections of this book and gives it heart.
Angelou had overcome a tormented childhood to become a singer/dancer in the show Porgy and Bess before semi-settling in California. In 1957, Angelou, now twenty-nine and a single mother with a twelve-year-old son, decides to move from California to New York. There she entertains singer Billie Holiday for four days (an unforgettable character sketch), just three months before Holiday's death, and meets Godfrey Cambridge, then a New York taxi driver. With him, she puts on a revue in Harlem to raise money for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Drawn into the orbit of prominent black entertainers and showbiz entrepreneurs during the show, she also meets civil rights leaders, and eventually becomes a regional coordinator for SCLC. Her acceptance as a member of the Harlem Writers Guild leads to the beginning of her writing career. Throughout this period, her son Guy is going to public school, where on one occasion he has problems as the only black child. When they move to a black neighborhood, he runs afoul of a violent black street gang. As Angelou deals with the big civil rights issues, Guy is in the streets dealing with the basic power struggles that underlie and complicate any struggle for justice.
Angelou is candid throughout her narrative, depicting people she meets "warts and all," but she is equally candid about her own actions, her sexual needs, and her impatience with formality and red tape. Her willingness to use her tongue as a rapier gives spice to the narrative and a picture of Angelou as a formidable adversary. When she "marries" Vusumzi Make, a South African Freedom Fighter, and, with her son, moves to Egypt and later to Ghana, she continues her work toward a better life for Africans, while remaining an anchor for her son. In this intimate memoir, Angelou provides insights into the universal civil rights struggle, while, at the same time providing a very human picture of one woman's home life during this tumultuous period of history. Mary Whipple
I've read other autobiographies which have deteriorated by the fourth part. This is not so with Maya Angelou's books. I've read parts one to four now, and at the end of each, I'm left feeling desperate to get the next part to find out what happens next in her life. Maya Angelou seems to have had a lot thrown at her in life, but seems to come out the far side better and stronger.
I am reading all 5 of Maya Anglou's books which make up her autobiography. This was one of the five I did not have and as I had raced through the first 3 books I was pleased this one was delivered promptly. This lady has certainly lived life to the full and survived to tell the tale.
Maya Angelou is an inspirational writer. After reading each part of the autobiography i could not wait to see what this wonderful woman had done next. Maya Angelou is an inspiration to us all. and i would definately recommend her autobiography and other books.
Quite a lot happens in this book but central is her marriage to black African Vus and the reader is required to put down their "I know this isn't going to work...." feelings to let the story unfold. Angelou's marriage comes at a time when there was great Black American enthusiasm for Black Africa. With such unrest in the USA it seemed to some that Africa had got it sorted out, an assumption that might have been a little premature. The book begins marvellously with Billie Holiday becoming a regular visitor at the Angelou home, fascinated by the "squareness" of Maya and her family orientated life. Two polar opposites and it doesn't end well. Maya continues with singing but interest in the Civil Rights movement leads her to a post in Martin Luther King's fundraising team. There's a shaky relationship with an unsuitable bail bondsman before she is swept off her feet by the visiting Vus. The gulf between the Black American Woman and Black African Man becomes apparent in this section. Maya moves to Cairo and when that gulf becomes too wide and the marriage crumbles she relocates to Ghana. Once again, son Guy is Maya's constant and he encounters a brush with death. We have music, theatre, relationships and a lot of politics. It's not quite as captivating as the first three volumes but it is still high standard autobiographical writing .
Shares with us the harsh reality of relationships between husband and wife. Brings to life how it would be to live in another culture. It made me want to get on a plane and see if I could survive somewhere else. My favourite of the series so far.
Volume four, and this time it's political. But this isn't some dry ideological tract, as her increasing social consciousness is always rooted in her personal experiences. Her relationship with her son and other men (her one flaw seems to be that her taste in men is awful) and her struggle to contribute to the cause are the key dramatic elements, and the action moves from the Broadway stage to the floor of the UN assembly to the streets of Cairo and finally Accra. Her determination is inspiring, the numerous betrayals heartbreaking. And the language beautiful. Can't wait for the next volume.
A remarkable life and a story beautifully told. This 4th book in Maya Angelou's autobiography takes us on an ever changing journey through historical times and wonderful places. Each book is more assured and better written than the last.