Maya Angelou was an African American poet, author, and civil rights activist. She was and is famously known for her book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. 

She was best known for her unique and pioneering autobiographical writing style.

Reading Materials

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes

Summary: The author describes her odyssey to Ghana in the 1960s, meant as a return to her African roots. Over a few years she transformed herself by learning to speak Fanti, dressing in Ghanian style and delving in politics. But after encountering racial prejudice and losing her son in a car crash, she returned to America.

And Still I Rise

Summary: And Still I Rise is a collection of poems, divided in three parts. Some of Angelou’s most famous and well known poems like Phenomenal Women and Still I Rise are included herein. The poems reflect Angelou’s life and touches subjects such as love, womanhood, racism, blackness and in general just being human. 

Even the Stars Look Lonesome

Summary: Stars, like her first book of essays, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993), has been called one of Angelou’s “wisdom books”. By the time it was published, Angelou was well-respected and popular as a writer and poet. She discusses a wide range of topics in the book’s twenty short personal essays, including Africa, aging and the young’s misconceptions of it, sex and sensuality, self-reflection, independence, and violence. Most of the essays are autobiographical and had previously appeared in other publications. One essay defends Angelou’s support of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, and another one centers on her friend Oprah Winfrey.

Gather Together in My Name

Summary: Gather Together in My Name (1974) is a memoir by American writer and poet Maya Angelou. It is the second book in Angelou’s series of seven autobiographies. The book begins immediately following the events described in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and follows Angelou, called Rita, from the ages of 17 to 19. Written three years after Caged Bird, the book depicts a single mother’s slide down the social ladder into poverty and crime. The title of the book is taken from the Bible, but it also conveys how one black female lived in the white-dominated society of the U.S. following the Second World War.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Summary: A black woman recalls the anguish of her childhood in Arkansas and her adolescence in the northern slums.

Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie

Summary: Diiie is made up of two sections of 38 poems. The 20 poems in the first section, “Where Love is a Scream of Anguish”, center on love. Many of the poems in this section and the next are structured like blues and jazz music, and have universal themes of love and loss. The eighteen poems in the second section, “Just Before the World Ends”, focus on the experience of the survival of African Americans despite living in a society dominated by whites.

Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas

Summary: Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry like Christmas is the third book of Maya Angelou’s seven-volume autobiography series. Set between 1949 and 1955, the book spans Angelou’s early twenties. In this volume, Angelou describes her struggles to support her young son, form meaningful relationships, and forge a successful career in the entertainment world. The work’s 1976 publication was the first time an African-American woman had expanded her life story into a third volume.

The Heart of a Woman

Summary: The Heart of a Woman recounts events in Angelou’s life between 1957 and 1962 and follows her travels to California, New York City, Cairo, and Ghana as she raises her teenage son, becomes a published author, becomes active in the civil rights movement, and becomes romantically involved with a South African anti-apartheid fighter. One of the most important themes of The Heart of a Woman is motherhood, as Angelou continues to raise her son. The book ends with her son leaving for college and Angelou looking forward to newfound independence and freedom.

Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

Summary: Maya Angelou, one of the best-loved authors of our time, shares the wisdom of a remarkable life in this best-selling spiritual classic. This is Maya Angelou talking from the heart, down to earth and real, but also inspiring. This is a book to treasured, a book about being in all ways a woman, about living well, about the power of the word, and about the power do spirituality to move and shape your life. Passionate, lively, and lyrical, Maya Angelou’s latest unforgettable work offers a gem of truth on every page.

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