THE HEART OF A WOMAN by Maya Angelou
Kirkus Star

THE HEART OF A WOMAN

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Another installment in Angelou's remarkable autobiography--beginning with would-be singer Maya in 1957 California: trying commune life; moving to L.A. with teenage son Guy; playing uneasy hostess to dying Billie Holliday--a "lonely sick woman, with a waterfront mouth" who both cursed and lullabied Guy . . . and interrupted Maya's nightclub act with a mini-review ("Stop that bitch. She sounds just like my goddam mamma"). But most of this book finds Maya in N.Y., living in Brooklyn and joining the Harlem Writers Guild--a mutual-criticism group of necessary harshness: "Publishers don't care much for white writers. . . . You can imagine what they think about black ones." Little writing gets done, however, because, after one final singing fling (at the Apollo), Maya finds herself galvanized by a Martin Luther King speech: she and Godfrey Cambridge ("his white teeth were like flags of truce") organize a fundraising cabaret for King's SCLC; then, to her surprise, Maya is offered the job of Northern coordinator; and this soon leads her to South African rebel diplomat Vus Make--a sleek, charismatic hero who, on the virtual eve of Maya's wedding to a lusty bail-bondsman, sweeps her into quasi-marriage--first in NY (where Maya acts in The Blacks and leads a protest march on the UN after Lumumba's assassination) and then in Cairo, where she rebels against Vus' male-chauvinism by getting a journalism job. Finally, however, fed up with Vus' tyrannies, infidelities, and unpaid bills, Maya takes off (after braving an African-style divorce-by-debate), puts Guy in college in Ghana, and breathes a sigh of relief: "At last, I'll be able to eat the whole breast of a roast chicken by myself." Don't look for political history here: Angelou doesn't pause much for reexaminations, and some of the sociological musings are shaky (as when she explains a black teen-gang simply as a response to racism). But the mother-son relationship is touchingly explored, the fire of the times is rekindled with eloquence, and Maya herself--brandishing a pistol to defend her son or wrassling with Vus in the Waldorf Astoria lobby--remains funny, tough, and vulnerable as she keeps on surprising herself with what she can do: a great lady moving right on through a great memoir.
Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 1981
ISBN: 0812980328
Page count: 344pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1981




MORE BY MAYA ANGELOU

NonfictionMOM & ME & MOM by Maya Angelou
by Maya Angelou
NonfictionLETTER TO MY DAUGHTER by Maya Angelou
by Maya Angelou
NonfictionA SONG FLUNG UP TO HEAVEN by Maya Angelou
by Maya Angelou

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS: