Mom & Me & Mom, Maya Angelou

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Not gonna lie-I specifically went to Audible looking for an audiobook narrated by Maya Angelou. I recently finished listening to Toni Morrison read her novel God Help the Child, and it was such a treat to hear the story told in the author's own voice, I knew I had to see if Maya Angelou had narrated any of her books prior to her passing. I could listen to her read the phone book.

Luckily, I discovered that not only had she narrated at least one of her books, it was one I hadn't yet read! Win-win! The book I found was Mom & Me & Mom, Angelou's memoir of her relationship with her mother, Vivian Baxter.

Angelou famously wrote about her early life in the memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. We learn that her mother sent her and her brother from California to Stamps, Arkansas to live with their grandmother Henderson when Maya was only three. Maya and her brother Bailey spent the next ten years living in Arkansas. When Maya was 13, her mother called for her and Bailey to come back to California, and it is that this point that Mom & Me & Mom picks up the tale. Maya and Bailey traveled to San Fransisco and moved into their mother's large Victorian house. They realized very quickly that their life in California would be much different than sleepy Stamps, Arkansas.

As a long-time fan of Maya Angelou, I knew that she was an exceptional woman. But after listening to this book, I know that there can never be another woman like her. Because learning more about her life, I can't believe that anyone will ever have the unique experiences again that formed Angelou into the wise, insightful, brave woman she was. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, we learn about many of the transformative events in Maya's life, but Mom & Me & Mom provides a broader context for understanding those events, and details some stories we've not heard before. Vivian Baxter,  was a palpable presence in all of the decisions Maya made in her teenage and young adult years, not least because she was such a presence, period. She was a strong women, sharply intelligent, who suffered no fools. She was a woman of stormy passions, who could love you up one minute and slap the mess out your mouth the next. She was a realist, a pragmatist, someone who recognized that a woman needed her own power to prevent her from becoming beholden to some man for protection. She dressed impeccably, had marvelous manners, and expected everyone else to rise to her high standards. While Maya and Vivian had a complex relationship, at its core was the deep abiding love of a mother for a child, and a child for its mother.

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