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Get a Real and Rare Glimpse into History with the Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou

Updated on May 29, 2014
Heidi Vincent profile image

Ms. Vincent is an M.B.A graduate, Business Consultant and health, wellness & natural healing enthusiast, who reads a lot on those subjects.

Dr. Maya Angelou was born the same year as my Dad - 1928 - which makes her very special to me.At this writing, she passed away on May 28, 2014 at the age of 86.

It is impossible to describe her in one word, since she carries many names: “one of the great voices of contemporary literature, poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director”.

This incredible female icon has won several honorary doctorates as well as numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010, Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album, Langston Hughes Medal and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work.

I recently published a tribute to my father, Cuthbert Emmanuel Vincent BEM, and since I am still in remembrance mode, I want to focus on Dr. Maya Angelou’s seven (7) autobiographies, since they hold the key to a collective past that will forever be recorded not only for Dr. Maya Angelou, but for all those who lived in her era and will never have a voice.

Dr. Angelou’s autobiographies, which she wrote between 1969 and 2013, chronicle her life and experiences from 1928 to 2013. That’s 85 years of history! We see them through the eyes of a woman who has travelled the globe and shares her experiences both at home, in the USA, and abroad.

This collection comprises the following 7 autobiographies:

  • 1.
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • : covers her life from age 3 through to age 16
  • (1931 - 1944)
  • , when she becomes a teenage mother. Deep seated issues such as “identity, rape, racism, and literacy” are covered within.
  • 2.
  • Gather Together in My Name
  • : treats with the years from 1944 to1948. In summary, it "depicts a single mother's slide down the social ladder into poverty and crime."
  • 3.
  • Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas
  • : She focuses her on life from age 21 to about 27 (1949–1955); her budding entertainment career, her motherhood, her travels to Europe, as well as other general issues about “music, race and conflict”.
  • 4.
  • The Heart of a Woman
  • : covers 5 years in her early 30s (1957–1962).She takes us on her travels with in the US and Africa (Cairo and Ghana), her debut as a published author, her active involvement in the US civil rights movement and her “romantic involvement with a South African freedom fighter.”
  • 5.
  • All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes
  • : she shares with us life in her late 30s; her life as an expatriate in Accra, Ghana, her struggles as a mother and her grappling with her African ancestry and African-American identity.
  • 6.
  • A Song Flung Up to Heaven
  • : written in 2002 and covering the period 1965 to 1968, “Two "calamitous events" frame the beginning and end of the book - the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and she describes how she dealt with these events and the sweeping changes in both the country [USA] and in her personal life, and how she coped with her return home.”
  • (
  • Wikipedia, A Song Flung Up To Heaven
  • )
  • 7.
  • Mom & Me & Mom
  • : written 2013, I think it really wonderful that she was able to write this final chapter in her own life, just 1 year before her passing. I would say it ‘comes full circle’ because it treats with her source of life, her mother, her resentment towards her for abandoning them as children, her eventual reconciliation with her mother and the help and support she received from her mother in later year with various aspects of her life including her motherhood and career.

What I like best about her autobiographies is that none of her experiences are sugar-coated. She tells “the good, the bad and the ugly” just as it was in every period of her life. So, although some details may make you uncomfortable, for me they do two (2) hugely significant things for all mankind:

  • 1. They keep us all in check, so that we never repeat the atrocities of the past.
  • 2. They remind us to be conscious about how we treat all people, lest one day we become the victims.

It’s not all heavy stuff, though, there are things to smile, chuckle and laugh about as well.

When we in life have been blessed with greatness, in the form of Dr. Maya Angelou, then it is our duty to preserve the memories and pass them on to our children and children’s children etc., so that we never have to read in our history that which was written of the Joseph and the Israelites in the Bible, “Then a new king, who knew nothing about Joseph, came to power in Egypt…and made [the Israelites] lives miserable by forcing them into cruel slavery” (Exodus 1:8).

So keep Dr. Maya Angelou’s words, experiences and her stories from her era alive in your own family and someone else’s family by purchasing a copy of this collection of her seven (7) very powerful autobiographies.

With all that I have said, though, Dr. Maya Angelou says it best, “All my work, my life, everything I do is about survival, not just bare, awful, plodding survival, but survival with grace and faith. While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated.”

I URGE YOU to watch the videos that I have selected for you. There's plenty wisdom for you to enjoy your life to the fullest!

Dr. Maya Angelou was such a gracious woman and I love seeing and hearing her read her poems. They really come to life.

I have created that sacred space that she talks about in my own life, and so I can very much relate to the advice that Dr. Angelou shares here. I really consider it superb advice for everyone no matter their age!

As someone who strives to be a good a good Christian, I really love this enlightened piece from her. Spoken with such wisdom!

Great advice for how to AGE GRACEFULLY!!!

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou
The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou

And just in case, you want to experience another side of Dr. Maya Angelou, then I highly recommend this complete collection of her poems. She was also an accomplished poet and she won the Quill Award for Poetry with her poem titled ‘Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem’.

 

For more great product reviews for everyone, inspirational Catholic & Christian articles, delicious recipes and winning gift ideas, visit FreshStart7 or the Catholic Contributor

Which of Dr. Maya Angelou's autobiographies or poems is YOUR favourite?

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    • Heidi Vincent profile image
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      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      @aminebombom: Thanks for visiting and sharing, AmineBomBom. Have a blessed week.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image
      Author

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      @ThisisMissyMiss: It's indeed a wonderful poem. In fact, I listened to it on the day she died and someone else told me that was the first one they listened to on her passing. Thanks for visiting and have a blessed week, ThisisMissyMiss.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image
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      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      @soniabaad lm: You're welcome, sonisbaad. Thanks for visiting and have a blessed week.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image
      Author

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      @nicenet: You're welcome, nicenet. Thanks for visiting and sharing your favourite quote from her. When you read her autobiographies they are testimony to someone who faced many defeats but was not defeated. Have a blessed week.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image
      Author

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      @AlexBPearl: Thanks AlexBPearl. Thanks for visiting and have a blessed week.

    • aminebombom profile image

      Amine 3 years ago from Doha, Qatar

      She was really something, may god bless the souls of every believer.Thanks

    • ThisisMissyMiss profile image

      Mommy 3 years ago from The Fabulous Midwest

      Still I Rise. I constantly think about the verses to that poem.

    • soniabaad lm profile image

      soniabaad lm 3 years ago

      Nice to know about a great lady. Thanks for sharing..

    • nicenet profile image

      nicey 3 years ago

      I like the part she said,'' while one may encounter defeat, one isn't defeated.''That's inspiring. Thanks for writing about Maya Angelou.

    • profile image

      AlexBPearl 3 years ago

      Great lens

    • Heidi Vincent profile image
      Author

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      @sybil watson: Thanks for visiting and sharing your favourite Maya Angelou biography with us. Have a blessed week.

    • georgepmoola2 profile image

      georgepmoola2 3 years ago

      Not familiar with her writings but you certainly make a good case for them. Good lens.

    • profile image

      sybil watson 3 years ago

      I've always loved "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". You're right, she certainly doesn't sugarcoat anything, and that makes her seem so much more approachable even though she was such a fabulous poet and writer.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image
      Author

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      @captainj88: Thanks leahjsongs! I am glad you liked it. Thanks also for visiting and have a blessed week,

    • Heidi Vincent profile image
      Author

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      @asereht1970: Wonderful, asereht1970! That's a great start to learn about this wonderful woman and benefit from her wisdom. Thanks for visiting and have a blessed week,

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 3 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      Well done! A great, thorough, heartfelt review.

    • asereht1970 profile image

      asereht1970 3 years ago

      I have heard of her name for so many times but I never really paid attention to her. Maybe now I will by starting to watch the videos you shared. Thanks.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image
      Author

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      @WriterJanis2: Indeed WriterJanis! Thanks for visiting and have a blessed weekend.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      What a wonderful contribution she has made to the world.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image
      Author

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      @Scindhia H: They say all good things come to an end, Schindia, but although she has passed her memory will live on in her work and wise sayings. Thanks for visiting and sharing. Have a blessed week.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image
      Author

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      @Ibidii: Thank you soooooo very much, Sherry! That was really nice of you. It put a smile on my face this afternoon when I checked facebook. Blessings!

    • Scindhia H profile image

      Scindhia 3 years ago from Chennai

      I loved her phenomenal woman poem. Sad that she is no more..

    • profile image

      Ibidii 3 years ago

      I have spread the word to two different websites and facebook about this review Heidi! I have a lot of people whom I know thought poetry groups of all colors who love Maya's work. Thank you for this great interview and this video!

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 3 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      The world was much richer for having had her in it. I really enjoy her poem "In and Out of Time."

    • Heidi Vincent profile image
      Author

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      @David Stone1: Thanks for visiting and sharing your favourite Angelou biography and what stayed with you from it. Have a blessed week.

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, the first work of hers I was aware of and a metaphor that stuck with its insightful understanding of what it was to be black, a woman and poet when none of these things were honored in her own country.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image
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      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      @PAINTDRIPS: Thanks for visiting, DeniseMcGill. Glad you liked my review and the reminders. Thanks also for sharing with us the autobiography that you have read. Have a blessed week.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Since I have only read one so far, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" I have to choose that one. Thank you so much for this list. I will immediately put them on my wish list with Amazon. Great Review and good reminders to do our best not to repeat the past!