WikiJournal of Humanities/Themes in Maya Angelou's autobiographies/XML

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    <full_title>WikiJournal of Humanities/Themes in Maya Angelou&#39;s autobiographies</full_title>
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     <title>Themes in Maya Angelou's autobiographies</title>
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The themes encompassed in African-American writer Maya Angelou's seven autobiographies include racism, identity, family, and travel. Angelou (1928–2014) is best known for her first autobiography, the critically acclaimed ''I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings'' (1969).  The rest of the books in her series are ''Gather Together in My Name'' (1974), ''Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas'' (1976), ''The Heart of a Woman'' (1981), ''All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes'' (1986), ''A Song Flung Up to Heaven'' (2002), and ''Mom & Me & Mom'' (2013).  Beginning with ''Caged Bird'' and ending with her final autobiography, Angelou uses the metaphor of a bird (which represents the confinement of racism and depression) struggling to escape its cage, as described in the Paul Laurence Dunbar poem "Sympathy".  Angelou's autobiographies can be placed in the African-American literature tradition of political protest.  Their unity underscores one of Angelou's central themes: the injustice of racism and how to fight it.  According to scholar Pierre A. Walker, all of Angelou's books describe "a sequence of lessons about resisting racist oppression".    In the course of her autobiographies, her views about Black-white relationships changed and she learned to accept different points of view.  Angelou's theme of identity was established from the beginning of her autobiographies, with the opening lines in ''Caged Bird'', and like other female writers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, she used the autobiography to reimagine ways of writing about women's lives and identities in a male-dominated society. Her original goal was to write about the lives of Black women in America, but it evolved in her later volumes to document the ups and downs of her own personal and professional life.  The theme of family and family relationships—from the character-defining experience of Angelou's parents' abandonment in ''Caged Bird'' to her relationships with her son, husbands, friends, and lovers—are important in all of her books.  As in American autobiography generally and in African-American autobiography specifically, which has its roots in the slave narrative, travel is another important theme in Angelou's autobiographies.  Scholar Yolanda M. Manora called the travel motif in Angelou's autobiographies, beginning in ''Caged Bird'', "a central metaphor for a psychic mobility".    Angelou's autobiographies "stretch time and place",   from Arkansas to Africa and back to the US, and span almost forty years, beginning from the start of World War II to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  1. Walker, Pierre A. (October 1995). "Racial Protest, Identity, Words, and Form in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". College Literature 22 (3): 93. 
  2. Manora, p. 373
  3. Lupton, p. 1