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Angelou, Maya

volume american woman fascinating

(US, 1928– )

Growing up as a black woman in America is the subject of Angelou's fascinating six-volume autobiography. Drawing on family, politics, and the arts, she has produced a moving narrative which is much more than a personal testimony. The first volume, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970) is about Angelou's early life in Arkansas and California. She tells how she was raped by her mother's boyfriend, of the ensuing trauma, and her five-year silence. A love of words is already playing a central role in her life. Gather Together in My Name (1974) and Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin' Merry like Christmas (1976) follows Angelou to San Francisco where, after working as a waitress, she trains as a dancer and singer. Perhaps the most fascinating volume is The Heart of a Woman (1981) which charts Angelou's literary and political development as she becomes involved with the Harlem Writer's Guild and meets a host of eminent black actors, singers, writers, and politicians including Malcolm X and Billie Holliday. Invigorated, Angelou throws herself into the civil rights movement where she meets and marries the South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make. In her fifth volume, All God's Children Need Travelling Shoes (1986) Angelou goes to Ghana and explores the complex and confused relationship of an African-American with her motherland. Angelou continues her commitment to issues of race and gender in her numerous poetry collections, including Shaker, Why don't You Sing? (1983). She is Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina.

Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker  EW

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