40before40: finish maya angelou’s autobiographical series.

back in 2015 i decided to reread maya angelou’s i know why the caged bird sings. i had read it in middle school but didn’t remember it well and knew there was a lot that had sailed over my head, so i ordered myself a copy and got to reading.

in doing so two things happened: i found myself absolutely absorbed by angelou’s words and stories, and i discovered that caged bird is not her entire autobiography but is in fact only the first volume.

i decided then and there that i wanted to read the entire series, and i am so glad i did. i opted to spread it out over a few years, and earlier this year i finished a song flung up to heaven which concludes with her penning the initial words of that first volume.

as a child i knew maya angelou had lived in arkansas and that she had spoken at president clinton’s inaugural address. i knew she was a writer and poet. and that was about the extent of my knowledge. in reading her words i learned that she was all of that and so much more. she had a myriad of careers. she traveled the world and lived in egypt and ghana and even in hawaii. she knew dr king and malcolm x and muhammad ali. she was part of the famed harlem writers guild. she was a nightclub singer and a dancer. in short, she was a badass.

through all of her books angelou’s direct voice shines through. she never asks for sympathy. she never feels sorry for herself. she presents her life as it was, makes no apologies, and allows an incredible look at her life as a black woman in cities like san francisco, new york, and cairo.

while the first six books of the series are chronological, each one picking up where the previous installment had left off, the seventh and final release mom & me & mom takes a look at angelou’s relationship with her mother over the course of her life. it recounts some of the stories she had shared in previous works but gives an additional perspective and chronicles how their relationship grew and evolved.

i loved learning so much about maya angelou’s life through her words. she had such a way with words, making her books both lyrical and also easy to read. i am definitely glad i decided to read the full series, and i’m also glad to cross this one off the list.


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