Gather Together in My Name (1974)
Gather Together in My Name begins in San Francisco shortly after the end of the Second World War. The illusion of racial equality in San Francisco during the war years begins to vanish. With white soldiers reclaiming their lives as civilians, black workers were expected to return to their farms and black military heroes to their ghettos. Angelou's prefatory observations about race and the job market are intended to place the autobiographer within an historic framework, with her personal economic situation echoing the postwar decline of African American society.
At seventeen, Maya is looking for a job that will bring her recognition, money, and independence, but she lacks the skills necessary to achieve these goals in a dominant white economy. Additionally, she believes, as do many young women, that to achieve her own goals she must leave her mother and stepfather, who have supported her, and define a new life for herself and for her two-month-old son. Leaving her family thus creates a double bind for the struggling single mother; she depends on them, but at the same time she wants to be independent.
Gather Together traces Maya's emergence into the world of work, carefully recounting her pursuit of economic stability as she moves from job to job--from Creole cook, to dancer, to prostitute, to fry cook. During the course of the autobiography she sometimes acts irresponsibly, when she endangers the safety of her son who is kidnapped by a baby-sitter.