This is the fourth of seven memoirs written by Maya Angelou, and it covers the period from 1957 and 1962, shortly before her departure from California with her young son Guy in tow. Maya ends up in New York City, where she enters the society of black musicians, actors, artists, writers, political activists, and discovers new depths within herself as she joins the Harlem Writers Guild along such luminaries as James Baldwin, writes for and performs on stage, becomes northern coordinator for Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), and joins the surging civil rights movement.
The memoir flits back and forth between her sometimes difficult relationship with her very precocious son, and her own self-discovery through the arts and politics. Her relationships with men are painful to read about, including her marriage to S. African activist Vuzumzi Make which takes her and Guy to London, and then to Cairo for a number of years where she discovers her talents as a magazine editor and broadens her view of the world even as her relationship to Make deteriorates. The memoir ends with Maya’s son leaving for college and Angelou embarking on the next phase of her tumultuous life.
Angelou’s life is a fascinating one, and her memoir reflects both her strengths and weaknesses as she bounces from one experience to the next while expanding her social awareness and her poetic sensibilities with each new phase in her life. She also grew her political awareness during a period of great changes in the United States and in the world, which are reflected in this memoir as well.