Synopses & Reviews
A phenomenal #1 bestseller that has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly three years, this memoir traces Maya Angelou's childhood in a small, rural community during the 1930s. Filled with images and recollections that point to the dignity and courage of black men and women, Angelou paints a sometimes disquieting, but always affecting picture of the peopleand the timesthat touched her life.
About the Author
Maya Angelou has written five volumes of autobiography as well as many books of poetry. Dr. Angelou is currently Reynolds Professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Reading Group Guide
Memoirist, novelist, poet, and dramatist, Maya Angelou is one of the best-loved writers of our time. She is widely acclaimed for her searing, inspiring writingsand she has been praised for confronting both the racial and sexual pressures on black women, and for infusing her work with a perspective on larger social and political movements, including civil rights.
In the volumes of her bestselling personal storyone of the most remarkable narratives ever sharedMaya Angelou writes about the struggles and triumphs of her extraordinary life with candor, humor, poignancy, and grace. These include:
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
The classic autobiography of her young years.
Gather Together In My Name
The coming-of-age story of her struggle for survival as a young unwed mother.
Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas
The saga of her show business career, her failed marriage, and her early motherhood.
The Heart of a Woman
The turbulent story of her emergence as a writer and a political activist.
Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now
Her exhilarating collection of wisdom, spirituality, and life lessons.
1. The memoir opens with a provocative refrain: "What you looking at me for? I didn't come to stay ... " What do you think this passage says about Ritie's sense of herself? How does she feel about her place in the world? How does she keep her identity intact?
2. Upon seeing her mother for the first time after years of separation, Ritie describes her as "a hurricane in its perfect power." What do you think about Ritie's relationship with her mother? How does it compare to her relationship with her grandmother, "Momma"?
3. The author writes, "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." What do you make of the author's portrayal of race? How do Ritie and her family cope with the racial tension that permeates their lives?
4. Throughout the book, Ritie struggles with feelings that she is "bad" and "sinful," as her thoughts echo the admonitions of her strict religious upbringing. What does she learn at the end of the memoir about right and wrong?
5. What is the significance of the title as it relates to Ritie's self-imposed muteness?