ANGELOU, Maya (born 1928) American autobiographer and poet
As a young woman, Maya Angelou was a singer and actress, touring the world in Porgy and Bess and working in New York nightclubs. In the 1960s she became a civil rights activist and spent five years in Africa as a journalist and teacher. Today she is one of America’s most respected poets and writers. Her finest work is the reconstruction of her own past life she has made in her volumes of autobiography. Angelou has triumphed in these not only because she has a lively prose style and writes of extraordinary characters and unusual locations, but because she has succeeded in making her own life seem somehow emblematic of an entire black generation’s progress from the segregation and oppression of the 1930s through the campaign for civil rights to the present day.
I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS (1969)
The first of Maya Angelou’s five volumes of autobiography records the traumas and tribulations of her upbringing in the American Deep South during the 1930s. Poignantly recording her struggle to forge her own identity and to triumph over the obstacles of being black and poor in a racist society, the book is a scathing indictment of injustice which also manages to be a document of hope and conviction that even the worst of circumstances can be left behind. Maya Angelou’s other autobiographical works are Gather Together in My Name, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, The Heart of a Woman and All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes.
Thematically & Stylistically Similar Books for Further Reading:
Alex Haley, Roots;
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (a novel first published in the 1930s which tells the story of a strong black woman triumphing over the odds);
Alice Walker, The Color Purple
Source Credits: Nick Rennison, Good Reading Guide: Discover Your Next Great Read, Bloomsbury Publishing, Seventh Edition