We’ve had a bit of a gap but here’s the next (and last full) instalment of Maya Angelou’s wonderful autobiography, which has definitely been a highlight of my reading this year, even more enjoyable because I’ve read them along with Meg and Ali (I was a little ahead of Ali in my reviewing schedule so here’s her review now).

Maya Angelou – “A Song Flung up to Heaven”

(April 2021)

‘Maya, your tongue is too sharp. I’ve told you time and time again. You must watch out for your tongue.’

But my tongue was all I had, all I had ever had. (p. 131)

Angelou returns to the US from Ghana at the start of the book, planning to go and work for Malcolm X in New York. But she diverts to California first, keen to see her mother and brother, work out how to escape the clutches of her royal prince boyfriend who isn’t going to let her go without a fight, and regroup herself and fight the guilt of having left her son, Guy, in Africa to finish his education. Then of course, Malcolm X is assassinated, and she’s left bewildered by the reaction. After some work on drama and her own writing, she is contacted by her old friend Martin Luther King Jr to help him on his poverty march campaign. She will, she says, but only after her birthday. It’s 1968 and when she tells him the date of her birthday – yes, 4 April – you can’t but wince in advance. Spending time with James Baldwin and other central figures, she is started to write poetry seriously, supported by a kind man who wants nothing from her (for once!) and building a close circle of friends, we leave her, aged a little over 40, starting to write the first volume of her autobiography.

I will admit I was a bit disappointed that this is the end, she’s aged 41ish out of the 86 years she lived, and just starting her literary career. I believe the last volume this was packaged with, “Mom & Me & Mom”, is a consideration of her relationships with her mother and grandmother rather than covering more years in such detail (and the final volume in the pile is poetry, which should be good to get to in due course). So I’m now on the look-out for a good biography – any suggestions?

I did enjoy this still – her great, smooth prose, her ability to laugh at herself and admit her weaknesses and mistakes make this a very attractive, if slight, volume.

This was TBR Challenge 2021-22 Book 29/85 – 56 to go (possibly, again, I will say let’s wait till I lay them out on the floor again on 1 January!)