I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is one of those books that I always thought that I’d read, but now that I think about it, I don’t think I have. Maybe excerpts. Her name is just always out there–I’m familiar with her poetry without being able to recall why I know it. I like her, but before reading this, I couldn’t have actually told you why I did. Probably b/c it’s cool. Because she’s cool. I had NO idea how cool–until I read this.
Mom & Me & Mom is actually Angelou’s seventh autobiography; it is, however, her first in about eleven years. She’s 85 now; or she will be on April 4, only two days after this publishes. & in what may be one of her last books (although she said in a recent interview with NPR that “Unless the creator’s ready for me I’m not going anywhere”), she chooses to focuses on her relationship with her mom, Vivian Baxter, who died in 1991.
My mom is quiet. She’s demure. She’s a lady. The craziest she ever gets is wearing what we like to teasingly refer to as “hippie t-shirts” with Peace/Hope/Love symbols on them. My house, growing up, was quiet. My parents have always gone to bed at 10 p.m. at the latest. What can I say–we’re Canadian. I was probably one of the most boring teenagers of all time.
I cannot even express to you how different Vivian Baxter is, and how radically, unbelievably different Angelou’s life was as a child/teenager/young adult. They would have scared the shit out of me as a teenager, but at the same time, I would give SO MUCH to hang out with them. I mean, not that I’m cool enough.
To illustrate: at one point, a man that Angelou is dating beats her to a bloody pulp. Vivian tracks her down, picks up some punks, breaks down the guy’s door where he’s stashed her, and rescues Angelou. & then later, once Angelou has recovered, her mom gives her a gun & tells her to shoot the guy. So Maya goes & confronts the sleazebag, but can’t shoot him. At which point her mom tells her that Angelou’s the better woman, but she would’ve shot him.
I think at this point, Maya’s about….mid-twenties. My age.
I mean, how surreal is that?! This is the same woman [Vivian] that gets upset at one point that Maya’s husband isn’t allowing her to go to church; the same woman that stands up for Maya when she gets pregnant at 17.
I can understand why they had a complicated relationship.
What I love about this book the most, though, is that while I’m sitting on my couch, I can just hear the words pour out of the book, as if Maya’s sitting on the chair next to me, reading me the story. Her voice is so clear, so musical; it’s a short book, given, but the time just flies by. She tells her story with grace, humility, jazz—it’s such a quiet, lovely pleasure to read.
I hope that I have half the spunk that Maya Angelou does, and that I do half as much to make the world a better place.
Five stars for being simply, beautifully, stylishly awesome. It’s a super quick read–you have to check this one out. Now go–I’m going to go hug my mom.
[I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review]