Gather Together in My Name by Maya Angelou
New York : Random House, 1974. Ninth printing. Hardcover. 214 pages ; 22 cm. $15.95 dust jacket with minimal wear. Remainder mark on top edge. Foxing to side page edges. No markings to pages. Slight lean to spine.
Gather Together in My Name is a continuation of Maya Angelou's personal story, begun so unforgettably in her best-selling I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It is full of memorable people and charged with a life-giving quality that marks Maya Angelou's writing.
As this book opens, Maya Angelou, still in her teens, has given birth to a son. The time is the end of World War II and there is a sense of optimism everywhere—a feeling of new beginnings—particularly for black people. But the next few years are difficult ones as she tries to find a place in the world for herself and her child. Not only is she unable to find a decent job, but her relatives can't or are unwilling to help with her son. She becomes a short-order cook—and falls in love, a brief idealistic affair which makes her yearn even more for a relationship which could bring affection and security.
Instead, she goes from job to job — and from man to man. She works in stores and restaurants, tries to join the Army, even becomes a night-club dancer. She tries to go home again, too—back to Stamps, Arkansas, where she had grown up with her remarkable grandmother. But she soon discovers that she is no longer part of that world anymore—or of any world she really wanted.
In the final major section of Gather Together in My Name, she goes to work in a house of prostitution thinking she is helping the man she loves. And her son is temporarily kidnapped by a woman who simply wants him for her own.
There was always one tempting way to escape—narcotics. And the desire to use them becomes greater as life becomes more difficult.
In other hands, this narrative might have been an anguished cry of complaint; instead, it carries forward the story of a remarkable woman who, even in adversity, sees life in the round and celebrates it.
MAYA ANGELOU, author of the best-selling I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and an original poetry collection Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie, has studied dance in San Francisco, and has toured Europe and Africa for the State Department in Porgy and Bess. She taught dance in Rome and Tel Aviv. In collaboration with Godfrey Cambridge she produced, directed and starred in Cabaret for Freedom at New York's Village Gate; she also starred in Genet's The Blacks at the St. Mark's Playhouse. At the request of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Miss Angelou became the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. From this she went to Africa, writing for newspapers in Cairo and in Ghana, where she was on the faculty of the University of Ghana. Maya Angelou has written and produced a ten-part TV series on African traditions in American life, and she wrote the original screenplay and musical score for the film Georgia, Georgia. In the spring of 1974 her modern-version adaptation of Sophocles' Ajax was given its premiere at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.
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