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Books from Maya Angelou


Dignity and beauty are the two words that come first to my mind when I think of the writings of Maya Angelou, African American autobiographer and poet. Many came to know her writings when she delivered her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at Clinton's 1993 inauguration. Her six-volume autobiography, her poetry and her essays are all delights to the mind and ear -- a special treat when read aloud.

1. Phenomenal Woman

This rendition of one poem by Maya Angelou would make a wonderful gift for a phenomenal woman in your life -- mother, sister, daughter, lover, wife, friend, mentor or teacher. Lines from the poem alternate with colorful images of women from the work of post-impressionist Paul Gaugin. Or follow the links to find another version, with three other poems.
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2. A Song Flung Up to Heaven

Finally -- the sixth volume of Maya Angelou's autobiography, almost 30 years after the publication of the first, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." She covers her life from 1964-68, in the midst of the African American civil rights movement. Follow the links to find the paperback (April 2003) as well as audio and large print editions.
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3. The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou

This 1994 collection includes "On the Pulse of Morning," the 1993 inaugural poem that helped bring this writer to even wider attention. Here you'll find Angelou's published poetry as of the early 1990s -- definitely a treat to be relished for years. An excellent gift for yourself or for another.
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4. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

In a later poem, Maya Angelou writes that the caged bird sings of freedom. This lyrical yet pulls-no-punches story of a tough childhood -- including a period when the young Maya refused to speak in fear of the power of words -- is now a classic of American writing. This is the first volume of Angelou's autobiography, and it's clear why she catapulted to literary acclaim.
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5. Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now

In the form of short essays, this memoir muses on spirituality, people who have been important in her life, womanhood, travel and other topics. Many of the essays are very short -- ideal for reading by women (or men) with busy schedules. Definitely a treasure chest filled with gems.
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6. Even the Stars Look Lonesome

Another collection of essays. In this 1998 volume, Maya Angelou tells stories about her life, illuminating the different ages of woman, African American womanhood, love and other perspectives.
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7. Gather Together in My Name

Second volume of Maya Angelou's autobiography. She continues the story of her life of struggle and dignity. The book begins in the euphoria after World War II's end: "There was no need to discuss racial prejudice. Hadn't we all, black and white, just snatched the remaining Jews from the hell of concentration camps?" And then the war industries began to shut down, and life returned to "normal."
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8. Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas

In this third volume of Maya Angelou's autobiography, she talks of her success in an international show business career in show business and her failed marriage. She also tells, with great emotion, of the early years of her young son and her relationship to him. This book continues the theme of struggle to find love, joy and security despite continuing racism and discrimination.
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9. The Heart of a Woman

Maya Angelou, in the fourth volume of her autobiography, begins writing in New York, and becomes friends of many of the best-known black writers, musicians and artists of the 1950s. She also becomes involved in civil rights activism, debuts at the Apollo and marries an African freedom fighter.
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10. All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes

In the fifth volume of her autobiography, Maya Angelou tells of her life, motherhood and career in Africa -- a place where she is both at home and not at home. The tragedy of her son's automobile accident sets the stage for her explorations of identity, culture and life. Like earlier volumes, her memories of the famous -- including Malcolm X -- and not-so-famous add spice to the brew.
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