My 12 in 12 Challenge – August – Women about Women – Book 3

Maya Angelou wrote seven volumes of autobiography about her life. This book, The Heart of a Woman, is the fourth book and the woman that Maya is writing about is herself. She is a Black woman growing up initially in Arkansas in poverty during a time of great oppression for Black people. In the first three volumes we learn how she becomes pregnant at an early age, lives as a single mother and struggles to succeed in a world which has so many barriers. By this volume in the story she has a teenaged son and is still trying to earn a living.

During the 1960s Maya Angelou became involved with the freedom movement in America in the era where Black people were claiming equality and human rights. She was right in the middle of this struggle, organising, putting on events, attending marches and adding her voice to others. She also met, or worked with, some of the great names in the movement including Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

The element which the author adds to the recorded history of the civil rights movement is her experience as a Black mother always seeking to keep her head above water and facing discrimination because of her colour and her gender. She is also clear that she is lonely and seeks male companionship during this period so not all her decisions are made with her head.

This is a very readable memoir. The author appears to be very truthful about what happened at the time, how she was involved and the mistakes she made. She also shows her courage and her stamina as she persists and also her stubbornness and pride which get her into all kinds of difficult situations. The book depicts a very different life experience than my own but the author is honest about what she felt and why she made the decisions that she did. She also gives us an insight into the Black activist world at the time, the growth of the movement and the shifting priorities.

I strongly recommend the whole series of autobiography. The first book is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and it is a deserved classic.