Everyone’s heard of Maya Angelou, right? I thought everyone had. But lately, when I’ve mentioned to people that I’m finally working my way through her autobiographies, I have found people that give me blank stares. Seriously, people? HOW can you not have heard of Maya?
Maybe it’s because I used to watch a lot of Oprah.
But I seriously thought everyone knew who Maya Angelou was. Apparently not.
Ok so for those that don’t know: (According to her Wikipedia page) Maya Angelou was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. You most likely have seen her quoted all over the internet, as there are many, many of her quotes floating around regularly. She wrote MANY inspirational quotes:
More about Maya, according to her Wikipedia page: “She was also an actress, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs.”
And: “…With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou publicly discussed aspects of her personal life. She was respected as a spokesperson for Black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of Black culture.”
There’s a lot more about all the many many things that she did in her lifetime on her Wikipedia page as well as on her website and all over the internet.
Sadly, she died in 2014, at the age of 86.
But luckily for us, she left quite a legacy to remember her by.
She wrote 7 autobiographies. That’s right, SEVEN. Shown here with one of her poetry books.
I am currently working my way through number 2:
Each book tells about a period in Maya’s life, through her own words, chronologically.
- The first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, starts with her very beginnings, talking about her parents, her early childhood, and ends with her at age 17 in 1944.
- The 2nd, Gather Together in My Name, covers 1944-1948, from age 17 to 19.
- The 3rd, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, covers 1949-1955, her early 20s.
- The 4th, The Heart of a Woman, covers 1957–62, her early 30s.
- The 5th, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, covers 1962–65, her mid-30s.
- The 6th, A Song Flung Up to Heaven, covers 1965–68, her late 30s.
- The 7th, Mom & Me & Mom, covers an overview of her whole life, and specifically her relationship with her mother.
What I can tell you from what I’ve read so far is that this woman was AMAZING! She lived in the South during segregation and she writes about a life and things that I haven’t ever even thought about, as a white person who has lived post-segregation era. I find myself absolutely immersed in her experiences because of the way she writes. Her voice is so vivid. I feel like I am actually there, silently observing all she is describing. It’s fascinating and sad at the same time. Although, there are also many wonderful moments…seeing what her experience was, growing up who she was when she did…it’s very eye-opening, to say the LEAST.
I feel like it’s more than just a book reading experience. I feel like it’s almost life-changing. Like you cannot unsee what you are being forced to see through her words. And that’s actually a good thing. Because this is how I think we all can start to understand. I cannot, as a white person, EVER know what it is to be black in America. And certainly not during that time period. (Not that it’s all peachy now even.) But I do feel like reading books like Maya’s is helping me feel like I understand more of what I don’t understand. If that makes sense.
It’s not like I ENJOY learning about injustice and racism. But, I know it’s important. And I enjoy learning new things. Especially IMPORTANT things. And I feel like a better person when I learn important things. These are VERY important things.
So I will continue to read Maya’s books and see what else I can glean from this amazing person. I see she has written many other kinds of books as well, so I will have to see what those are all about as well.
If you’ve not checked out anything by Maya, I urge you to do so. It’s definitely worth your time to learn this stuff. Especially if you are white. And even if you are not, it’s truly well written and a fascinating story! She lived quite a life!
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