It is 1964 and Maya Angelou is on her way back home, leaving behind her beloved - and now seriously teenaged - son Guy, to finish university in Ghana. America is pulsing with the challenge of change, the civil rights movement is in full swing and that's where Maya Angelou wants to be, working alongside her friends Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. In this final volume, Maya Angelou provides, with her customary wisdom, compassion and wit, a first-hand record of an extraordinarily exciting and tragic political period. She writes too of "Jimmy" Baldwin, Eldridge Cleaver, and of friends and family, and finishes with the beginnings of her career as one of America's most impressive memoir writers.
It's been a long time coming, but A Song Flung Up to Heaven
triumphantly completes the six volumes of autobiography that began nearly 30 years ago with Maya Angelou's astonishingly successful I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
, a work that changed readers' perceptions of what autobiographical writing could achieve. The impact of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
(which evoked the author's adolescence and sexual abuse in Arkansas) was unprecedented. It combined frankness and emotional force with a nuanced, poetic style--a style that Angelou has perhaps found more elusive recently. But it's here again, as affecting as ever. The book deals with the years 1964-68, a turbulent period in which Angelou came back to America after her African sojourn. This, of course, was the time of the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King; Angelou was on the point of working with the latter in the civil rights movement. Her voice is fresh and exhilarating as she deals with the tragedies and triumphs of a packed life, and there are some set-piece moments, such as her account of the misguided revenge she took on an ex-lover.
Many women have become celebrated as writers and poets, but Angelou has also enjoyed a distinguished career as a civil rights activist, producer, performer, actress, and filmmaker. With all of this under her belt, she can be forgiven for the note of self-congratulation that creeps in at times. But for those who've followed her unique writing, this is a journey into a fascinating life and a riveting picture of a divided America, always informed with that clear-sighted vision Angelou is famous for. --Barry Forshaw, Amazon.co.uk