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The Heart of a Woman [Hardcover]

By Maya Angelou (Author)
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Item description for The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou...

In The Heart of a Woman Maya Angelou leaves California with her son, Guy, to go to New York. There she enters the society and world of black artists and writers. Not since her childhood has she lived in an almost black environment, and she is surprised at the obsession her new friends have with the white world around them. She stays for a while with John and Grace Killens and begins to read her writing at the Harlem Writers Guild. She continues to sing, most notably at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, but more and more she begins to take part in the struggle of black Americans for their rightful place in the world. She helps organize a benefit cabaret for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and then is appointed Martin Luther Kings Northern Coordinator.

Shortly after that, through her friend Abbey Lincoln, she takes one of the lead parts in Genet's The Blacks (it was a remarkable cast, including Godfrey Cambridge, Roscoe Lee Brown, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Raymond St. Jacques, and Lou Gossett), and even writes music for the production.

In the meantime her personal life has taken a tempestuous turn. She has left the New York bail bondsman she was intending to marry and has fallen in love with a South African freedom fighter named Vusumzi Make, who sweeps her off her feet and eventually takes her to London and then to Cairo, where, as her marriage begins to break up, she becomes the first female editor of the English-language magazine.

The Heart of a Woman is filled with unforgettable vignettes of famous people, from Billie Holiday to Malcolm X, but perhaps most important is the story of Maya Angelou's relationship with her son. Because this book chronicles, finally, the joys and the burdens of a black mother in America and how the son she had cherished so intensely and worked for so devotedly finally grows to be a man.
"I know that not since the days of my childhood, when people in books were more real than the people one saw every day, have I found myself SO moved."

-- James Baldwin

"Full of laughter and tears, love and hate, failures and triumphs, and above all, understanding."

-- John O. Killens

"Gather Together in My Name

"Gather Together in My Name is part of a select body of literature that includes The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Claude Brown's Manchild in the Promised land, and Ernest J. Gaines's The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Maya Angelou regards the world and herself with intelligence and wit; she records the events of her life with style and grace."

-- William McPherson, The Washington Post Book World

"Here the 'caged bird' soars, and sings in a voice as rich and funny, passionate and mellow as any writer I know."

-- Shana Alexander
Poet, writer, performer, teacher and director Maya Angelou was raised in Stamps, Arkansas, and then went to San Francisco. In addition to her bestselling autobiographies, beginning with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she has also written five poetry collections, including I Shall Not Be Moved and Shaker, Why Don't You Sing?, as well as the celebrated poem "On the Pulse of Morning," which she read at the inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
The Harlem Writer's Guild was meeting at John's house, and my palms were sweating and my tongue was thick.  The loosely formed organization, without  dues or membership cards, had one strict rule: any invited guest could sit in  for three meetings, but thereafter, the visitor had to read from his or her  work in progress.  My time had come.

Sara Wright and Sylvester Leeks  stood in a corner talking softly.  John Clarke was staring at titles in the  bookcase.  Mary Delaney and Millie Jordan were giving their coats to Grace  and exchanging greetings.  The other writers were already seated around the  living room in a semicircle.

John Killens walked past me, touching my  shoulder, took his seat and called the meeting to order.

"O.K.,  everybody.  Let's start." Chairs scraped the floor and the sounds  reverberated in my armpits.  "As you know, our newest member, our California  singer, is going to read from her new play.  What's the title,  Maya?"

"One Love, One Life."  My usually deep voice leaked out  high-pitched and weak.

A writer asked how many acts the play had.  I  answered again in the piping voice, "So far only one."

Everyone  laughed; they thought I was making a joke.

"If everyone is ready, we  can begin." John picked up his note pad.  There was a loud rustling as the  writers prepared to take notes.

I read the character and set  description despite the sudden perversity of my body.  The blood pounded in  my ears but not enough to drown the skinny sound of my voice.  My hands shook  so that I had to lay the pages in my lap, but that was not a good solution  due to the tricks my knees were playing.  They lifted voluntarily, pulling my  heels off the floor and then trembled like disturbed Jello.  Before I  launched into the play's action, I looked around at the writers expecting but  hoping not to see their amusement at my predicament.  Their faces were  studiously blank.  Within a year, I was to learn that each had a horror story  about a first reading at the Harlem Writers Guild.

Time wrapped itself  around every word, slowing me.  I couldn't force myself to read faster. The  pages seemed to be multiplying even as I was trying to reduce them.  The play  was dull, the characters, unreal, and the dialogue was taken entirely off the  back of a Campbell's soup can.  I knew this was my first and last time at the  Guild.  Even if I hadn't the grace to withdraw voluntarily, I was certain the  members had a method of separating the wheat from the chaff.

"The End."  At last.

The members laid their notes down beside their chairs  and a few got up to use the toilets.  No one spoke.  Even as I read I knew  the drama was bad, but maybe someone would have lied a little.

The  room filled.  Only the whispering of papers shifting told me that the jury  was ready.

John Henrik Clarke, a taut little man from the South,  cleared his throat.  If he was to be the first critic, I knew I would receive  the worst sentence.  John Clarke was famous in the group for his keen  intelligence and bitter wit.  He had supposedly once told the FBI that they  were wrong to think that he would sell out his home state of Georgia; he added that he would give it away, and if he found no takers he would even pay  someone to take it.

"One Life.  One Love?"  His voice was a  rasp  of disbelief.  "I found no life and very little love in the play from the  opening of the act to its unfortunate end."

Using superhuman power, I  kept my mouth closed and my eyes on my yellow pad.

He continued, his  voice lifting.  "In 1879, on a March evening, Alexander Graham Bell  successfully completed his attempts to send the human voice through a little  wire.  The following morning  some frustrated playwright, unwilling to build  the necessary construction plot, began his play with a phone call."

A  general deprecating murmur floated in the air.

"Aw, John" and "Don't  be so mean" and "Ooo Johnnn, you ought to be ashamed."  Their moans were facetious, mere accompaniment to their relish.

Grace invited everyone  to drinks, and the crowd rose and started milling around, while I stayed in  my chair.

Grace called to me.  "Come on, Maya.  Have a drink. You  need it."  I grinned and knew movement was out of the question.

Killens came over.  "Good thing you stayed.  You got some very important criticism." He, too, could slide to hell straddling knotted greasy rope.   "Don't just sit there.  If they think you're too sensitive, you won't get  such valuable criticism the next time you read."

The next time? He  wasn't as bright as he looked.  I would never see those snotty bastards as  long as I stayed black and their asses pointed toward the ground.  I put a  nasty-sweet smile on my face and nodded.

"That's right, Maya Angelou,  show them you can take anything they can dish out.  Let me tell you  something." He started to sit down beside me, but mercifully another writer  called him away.

I measured the steps from my chair to the door. I  could make it in ten strides.

"Maya, you've got a story to  tell."

I looked up into John Clarke's solemn face.

"I think I  can speak for the Harlem Writer's Guild.  We're glad to have you.  John  Killens came back from California talking about your talent.  Well, in this  group we remind each other that talent is not enough.  You've got to work.   Write each sentence over and over again, until it seems you've used every  combination possible, then write it again.  Publishers don't care much for  white writers." He coughed or laughed.  "You can imagine what they think about black ones.  Come on.  Let's get a drink."

I got up and followed him without a first thought.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/1998 page 724

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Random House
Pages   288
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.64" Width: 5.76" Height: 0.98"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   May 17, 1997
Publisher   Random House
ISBN  0375500723  
ISBN13  9780375500725  

Availability  0 units.

More About Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou Maya Angelou was raised in Stamps, Arkansas. In addition to her bestselling autobiographies, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The Heart of a Woman, she wrote numerous volumes of poetry, among them Phenomenal Woman, And Still I Rise, On the Pulse of Morning, and Mother. Maya Angelou died in 2014.
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), the French Post-impressionist painter, abandoned his family and his career as a stockbroker to paint in Tahiti and other exotic locations. According to some art scholars, modern art began with Paul Gauguin. Today his work is in the permanent collections of museums all over the world.

Maya Angelou lived in Winston-Salem, in the state of North Carolina. Maya Angelou was born in 1928 and died in 2014.

Maya Angelou has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Modern Library (Hardcover)
  2. Penguin Classics

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Arts & Literature > Authors
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Ethnic & National > African-American & Black
3Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Ethnic & National > General
4Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
5Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Specific Groups > Women
6Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Authors, A-Z > ( A ) > Angelou, Maya
7Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > African American > Angelou, Maya
8Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > Poetry > African American
9Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Womens Studies > General
10Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Womens Studies

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Heart of a Woman?

~Enlightening Read~  May 25, 2008
Maya has such an impeccable method of penning and conveying her prose!! This was a wonderful installment in her biographical sequence(s). I recommend this book to ALL (those mature and aged enough to handle the sometimes-explicit subject matter) because it brings so many pieces of American history together in such a uniquely stated manner!
i luv it  May 13, 2008
i was so excited to get this book. it arrived fast and was in good condition. thank you
The Urban Book Source  Aug 13, 2007
Another slice of Maya Angleou's memoir, The Heart of a Woman, brings you through her hardships of raising her son Guy in California and continues during her move to New York City, her stint in the Harlem Writers guild, her intimate involvement in the Civil Rights movement, her marriage to South African Freedom Fighter, Vusumzi Make and subsequent move to Egypt, Ghana and ultimate divorce. A book that will speak to men and women on all levels, The Heart of a Woman is truly a phenomenal read.
The Heart of a Woman Laid Bare  Aug 6, 2007
I have just finished The Heart of a Woman and I could not put it down once I started it. Angelou lays bare for all of her readers her heart, her life and her truth. What an amazing life she has lived. I read some reviews that criticized her for her honesty in regards to whites during the 60s. It was the 60s, racial barriers where still up strong and bared anyone of color from living the lives they so richly deserved, why should she be criticized for this? Would it be better that she lied and said how wonderful life was for blacks in this country during that time? It wasn't and that is the point that she is making in this book. That is the point that she is making as an African American woman, called to the forefront in the battle of discrimination.
I had to look on the cover to see when she wrote this book, it was 1981, how sad that in 26yrs we still see white America carrying the flag of superiority! I am truly glad that Angelou is still walking this earth to see that though the gains for civil rights are slow coming they are coming,regardless of what her criticizers are saying. Because if they are criticizing her for telling it like it was, then there is still a long path to journey to get us beyond the need for civil rights.
If you want to know what the 60's Civil Rights movement & Aparthied in South Africa was about this book will give you an accurate picture of one womans involvement. Two thumbs up for Angelou!
disappointed  Jun 14, 2007
The heart of a woman was not an easy read for me, i just couldn't get into it, it did not grab my attention.

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