Maya Angelou’s The Heart of a Woman
Maya Angelou chose to exercise her own quote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you,” through her various autobiographies and poems. She did this so that readers may discover her extraordinary past and possibly even learn from it. Formerly known as Marguerite Johnson, Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri and was raised in Stamps, Arkansas. She is an African American female author, poet, playwright, and actress and is mostly associated with her most popular autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. One of her writings, The Heart of a Woman is the fourth of six autobiographies that was published in 1981 and it narrates her life from 1957-1962. Throughout this six-year span, Maya Angelou encountered many trials, migrations, and famous exposures. These include struggling to survive as a single mother and a full-time dancer in addition to living a monogamous lifestyle, frequently migrating with her son Guy, and meeting famous people such as Billie Holiday, Malcolm X, and even Martin Luther King, Jr. By 1981, Angelou already had a considerable amount of fame due to her previous three autobiographies and the publication of three volumes of poetry. In 1997, The Heart of a Woman became a selection in Oprah Winfrey’s book club. According to writer Hilton Als, she was one of the first African American female writers to publicly discuss her personal life and include herself as a central character in her books, which she continued to do in The Heart of a Woman. I chose to report on The Heart of a Woman not only because Maya Angelou is my favorite author, but also because her books portrays life during the abolitionist period in the United States. In addition, I value the fact that she is very sincere while exposing herself in her writings despite her rape and her consequent period of prostitution. In The Heart of a Woman, Maya Angelou expresses themes in regards to race, motherhood and journey, and she also uses literary elements such as figurative and descriptive languages while describing other people which overall results in a positive reaction from me. The Heart of a Woman begins in 1957 with Maya Angelou and her son Guy living in a houseboat community in Sausalito, California. In less than a year, they move to Hollywood, California in a safer residential neighborhood. During her stay there, she is introduced to legendary singer Billie Holiday who later informs Angelou, “You’re going to be famous. But it won’t be for singing (Angelou 16).” In 1959 she receives an invitation by writer John Killens to be a member of the Harlem Writer’s Guild in New York. While in New York, she gets her first job as a performer at a club in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and just two months later, receives an offer to appear at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Maya Angelo continues to sing and she also increasingly participates in the struggle of freedom for African Americans. In 1960 she produced, directed and starred in a play Cabaret for Freedom, which raised funds for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Consequently, she became appointed Northern Coordinator for the SCLC on Martin Luther King’s behalf. In 1961, while still working as Northern Coordinator for the SCLC, Angelou meets South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make who she later gets engaged to at the same time she is engaged to her friend Thomas Allen. After Maya Angelou is disengaged from Thomas Allen, she leaves for England with Vusumzi Make where they unofficially get married. When they return to New York, Angelou is under demanding control by Make. “I was unemployed but I have never worked so hard in all my life (Angelou 141).” She worked so hard to satisfy her husband whenever he returned home that she felt as if she washed, scrubbed, mopped, dusted and waxed thoroughly every other day. Make didn’t want Angelou to work, which frustrated her, especially with her being...
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