All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986)
The fifth volume of Maya Angelou autobiography, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes, tells the story of Angelou's four-year residency in Ghana from 1963 to 1966. When the narrative was published twenty years later, it was greeted with praise and disappointment. Eugenia Collier, on the one hand, proclaimed the book to be "the apex toward which the other autobiographies have pointed" ( 1986, 24), while Russell Harris, on the other hand, told Angelou the book was too "pedantic," too academic. Except for the quest idea, there was not much of a story line. She replied: "I think you might need another reading, because there are other stories in the book" ( 1989, 168).
One major story found in Traveling Shoes, one that most critics overlook, is Angelou's love for her son. The volume begins with a reiteration of Guy's car accident, the episode that concluded The Heart of a Woman. In Traveling Shoes Guy recovers from his injuries and continues to mature. A student at the University of Ghana, he seeks independence from his mother as he attempts to define his own separate goals.
Another major story is Angelou's exploration of her African and African American identities. She explores this conflict as it exists for the American expatriates living in Accra as well as for the groups of people--Bambara, Keta, Ahanta--who still observe the traditions of their ancestors. At the end of Traveling Shoes these issues are resolved when Angelou derides to return to the ways and culture of the United States.