Random House, April 2, 2013
Hardcover, 224 pp
My thoughts: Maya began her autobiography with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and now in this installment, the 7th, she shares with us her mother. Anybody that has read any or all of her memoirs must agree that Maya Angelou has led an extraordinary life. This latest chapter is no different and is a beautiful homage to the connection and love that she shared with her mother.
Synopsis: The story of Maya Angelou’s extraordinary life has been chronicled in her multiple bestselling autobiographies. But now, at last, the legendary author shares the deepest personal story of her life: her relationship with her mother.
For the first time, Angelou reveals the triumphs and struggles of being the daughter of Vivian Baxter, an indomitable spirit whose petite size belied her larger-than-life presence—a presence absent during much of Angelou’s early life. When her marriage began to crumble, Vivian famously sent three-year-old Maya and her older brother away from their California home to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. The subsequent feelings of abandonment stayed with Angelou for years, but their reunion, a decade later, began a story that has never before been told. In Mom and Me and Mom, Angelou dramatizes her years reconciling with the mother she preferred to simply call “Lady,” revealing the profound moments that shifted the balance of love and respect between them.
Delving into one of her life’s most rich, rewarding, and fraught relationships, Mom and Me and Mom explores the healing and love that evolved between the two women over the course of their lives, the love that fostered Maya Angelou’s rise from immeasurable depths to reach impossible heights.
In the prologue, Maya answers the question that she says she's been asked so many times, how did she get to be Maya Angelou? with "I knew that I had become the woman I am because of the grandmother I loved and the mother I came to adore."
After their divorce, Vivian Baxter and Bailey Johnson (neither one of them ready to parent two toddlers) sent their children to live with Bailey's mother. Maya, 3, and her brother, Bailey, 5, lived with their paternal grandmother until Maya was 13. When their grandmother no longer felt it was safe for the growing, strong-willed Bailey in the racially segregated south of Arkansas, Grandma Henderson made arrangements for them to reunited with their mother in California.
Both children resented their mother for leaving them - Maya more so than Bailey. But Mama filled an empty place in Bailey almost immediately. There were still demons that he wrestled with, though. Near the end of the book Maya writes,
"when he gazed at Mother, his glance was complex: Worship shared space with disappointment."Throughout the book Maya's cautious trepidation of her beautiful, tough-as-nails mother gives way to a deep respect and adoration. Her feelings of abandonment are replaced with a sense of security that only her mother can provide. Her mom becomes a soft place to land whenever she needs her. No questions asked.
This book has me thinking of the poem, i carry your heart with me by ee cummings. It's usually shared between lovers and often used at weddings, but really, I can't think of a more profound love than that of a mother for her children.
i carry your heart with meAbout the author:
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)
i am never without it (anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet)
i want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
Dr. Maya Angelou is a remarkable Renaissance woman who is hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature. As a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director, she continues to travel the world, spreading her legendary wisdom. Within the rhythm of her poetry and elegance of her prose lies Angelou's unique power to help readers of every orientation span the lines of race. Angelou captivates audiences through the vigor and sheer beauty of her words and lyrics.
Have a fantastic weekend,
Disclosure: As one of my Top Ten books that I eagerly anticipated being released this Spring, I gratefully accepted to read the advance ebook copy offered by the publisher in exchange only for my honest review.