Maya Angelou: A Critical Companion

By Mary Jane Lupton | Go to book overview

5
Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976)

When Angelou's second volume, Gather Together in My Name, reached its conclusion, Maya, luckily released from a life of drug addiction and prostitution, vowed to maintain her innocence. In the following, volume Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas, Maya, now in her early twenties, displays a sense of self-rejection that negates the more positive ending of Gather Together. She's too tall, too skinny. Her teeth stick out. Her hair is "kinked" (4). She is distrustful of people who show an interest in her. How similar this portrait is to the beginning of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, where she believes herself to be ugly and deplores her ruffled purple dress. The description is also reminiscent of negative self-image in other autobiographies by African American women, for example in the early pages of Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks on a Road ( 1942), or in the racial confusion experienced by bell hooks when her parents gave her white dolls when she longed for "unwanted, unloved brown dolls covered in dust" ( 1996, 24).

For the lonely Maya, the major escape is contemporary music. She frequently visits a record store on Fillmore Street in Los Angeles, a place with turntables and stalls for listening to the newest records. Here she is befriended by a white woman, Louise Cox, who offers the suspidous Maya a job. Here she meets her first husband, Tosh Angelos.

Throughout this troubled autobiography, Angelou's emotions are focused on her son, Guy. She marries Tosh Angelos, in part to please her

-97-

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Maya Angelou: A Critical Companion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Advisory Board vi
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - The Life and Works of Maya Angelou 1
  • 2 - The Genre of Autobiography 29
  • 3 - I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 51
  • 4 - Gather Together in My Name 75
  • 5 - Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry like Christmas 97
  • 6 - The Heart of a Woman 115
  • 7 - All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes 139
  • Bibliography 165
  • Index 175
  • About the Auther 181
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