Maya Angelou: A Critical Companion

By Mary Jane Lupton | Go to book overview

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The Life and Works of Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou: A Critical Companion examines the five autobiographical volumes of noted African American writer Maya Angelou. Although all of these volumes are distinct in style and narration, they are unified through a number of repeated themes and through the developing character of the narrator. In their scope they stretch over time and place, from Arkansas to Africa, from confused child to accomplished adult. With so expansive a project, Angelou is required to de-emphasize the standard autobiographical concern for the individual and to focus on her interaction with others: with the jazz singer Billie Holiday; with the actor Godfrey Cambridge; with the African American community in Ghana; with the world leader Malcolm X.

Maya Angelou, in having created these five autobiographies, has assured herself a prominent place in American literature. She has expanded the scope of the typical one-volume book about the self, creating a saga that covers the years 1941 to 1965--from the beginnings of the Second World War to the days preceding the assassination of Malcolm X. She guides the reader through a quarter of a century of American and African American history, revealed through the point of view of a strong and affectionate black woman. By opening up the edges of her narrative, Maya Angelou, like no one before her, transcends the autobiographical tradition, enriching it with contemporary experience and female sensibility.

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