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on June 22, 2002
We began following the life of Maya Angelou through her first biography, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Now many years and several installments later we conclude with her latest work "A Song Flung Up to Heaven." Although, Angelou focuses primarily on a short span of her life in this book, she reflects over her entire life and at the end of the book the reader will surely feel as if she has come full circle.
Angelou's path to success was a rocky one. As a child she was the victim of abuse and her young adult life was far from easy. She shares her experiences with candor and grace, I never felt as if she was telling the glamorized version of her experiences. She shared both her triumphs and her regrets, her successes and her failures. Her writing was conversational, and as I read through this book I felt at times as if we were sitting and chatting. Maya's relationships with such figures as Malcolm X, James Baldwin, and Martin Luther King Jr., were discussed at length in this novel and several other famous figures were featured with less detail. I appreciated that she didn't "dish dirt" about these people, instead she portrayed the people behind the work for which they were famous.
This book continued the journey of Angelou's often difficult life, but I felt like I was left hanging. I respect her decision not to write about writing, but after reading about so many of the difficulties she had to overcome in her life I wanted to hear about her ultimate success as a writer. Still, I appreciated her openness and willingness to share her life's arduous journey with readers. I truly believe that her life symbolizes strength of character and perseverance in a manner that should serve as an inspiration to all, and particularly to women. As such, I highly recommend Maya Angelou's final chapter of her collection of memoirs.--Reviewed by Stacey Seay
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on May 21, 2002
In book six of her autobiography series, "A Song Flung Up to Heaven",Maya Angelou vividly recounts the many memorable occurrences taking place between the years of 1964 through 1968. Angelou's first hand experience of the riot in Watts invokes images of the burning frustrations of the people of that area and time. The opportunities of working alongside historic figures such as Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were short lived and a sour subject of intense pain for her.
Maya tells of her trip from Africa to Los Angeles and then to
New York. During this time she experiences the absence of her son, who stayed in Africa to continue his education, and the lost love of her African spouse. With the help of family and friends Maya gains the strength to rise again. The story ends at the beginning of her first book in this bio series.
In this reader's opinion, a song flung up to heaven is a silent prayer for the strength to go on in this life, and the prayer always returns with the needed relief through the thoughtfulness of those around us. The joy of this book was listening to the author read it in her own voice through recorded books.
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on April 28, 2002
A Song Flung Up To Heaven is a continuation of the experiences of Maya Angelou. If you've read any of her previous memoirs, you will know that Dr. Angelou has lead and continues to led a rich and full life - something that cannot be covered in one or two books.
This sixth memoir starts with Dr. Angelou's return to the U.S. from Ghana, West Africa. It ends with the time she was about to write her first memoir, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. In between, the book is filled with her encounters with various people and her experience during some disturbing times in American history - the murder of Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, and the Watts riots in California.
I most enjoyed reading about my favorite personalities from Dr. Angelou's past memoirs - Vus Make, her handsome, intelligent, charismatic African husband; Bailey Johnson, her older, caring big brother; Guy Johnson, her intelligent, independent son and Vivian Baxter, her smart mother.
Reading Dr. Angelou's continued memoir is like sitting with an old, trusted and respected friend; there's a treasured feeling as you listen to her stories as they come one after the other.
Fafa Demasio
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on September 11, 2002
Boy I feel terrible even writing this. I love Maya Angelou's writing so much that if she were to walk into my office right now, I'd kiss the ground that her poetic feet had touched. But this book is so thin -- both in terms of number of pages and detail -- that it screams "contractual obligation" to me. There is very little of the poetry, wisdom, description of the human condition or even the wit that usually makes her writing so fulfilling and telling. Basically, she was going to work for Malcolm X, but then he was killed, and it bummed her out. She was in L.A. during the riots, and it bummed her out. She was going to work for Dr. King, and he was killed, and it bummed her out. James Baldwin told her to get hold of herself, and she stumbled into writing her first book, the now-classic "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."
Obviously she must have had some kind of personal or professional relationship with both Malcolm X and Dr. King for them to have invited her to work for them. But we get absolutely no description of their relationship, the characters of either man, or what drew her to two figures of such power and -- importantly -- such opposing political and social outlooks.
I will continue to wait for the next great book from Dr. Angelou. Sadly for me and, I suspect, many of her readers and fans, this is not it.
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on April 22, 2002
A Song Flung Up to Heaven was a quick touching read. It reviews the feelings and sentiments felt by people during the turbulent period of 1964 -1968. We can read what happened to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. from history books. Many of us can call upon people who were young during this period to draw out their perceptions. Very rarely have those feelings been cast into rememberences of books or autobiographies. Ms. Angelou, through her journey, was able to poignantly express her feelings. Feelings of expectation, utter devistation, sheer shock and wanton disbelief.
We are indeed blessed that Ms. Angelou is able to grace us with many more books and poems. I look forward to many more wonderful works such as this.
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on August 10, 2006
When a representative of Random House contacted Angelou with the suggestion that she write an autobiography at the tender age of forty, she demurred, and he lay down a challenge by saying that she might be right to refuse, for writing autobiography as literature is nearly impossible to do. Angelou picked up that challenge and met it squarely, for her six-volume autobiography does indeed qualify as literature. As has been noted in several reviews of her other books in this series, she writes not the dry facts of her existence but rather the colorful and expressive interpretation of those facts. Instead of recounting happenings, she paints for the reader her interpretation of them, their significance, and their place in her universe. History may underlie her writing, but it is the view that Angelou has of those historical events that gives her books interest and meaning.

A SONG FLUNG UP TO HEAVEN is the concluding volume of Angelou's autobiographical writings, and, by itself, it is of limited instruction for the reader. It is quite brief, easily read in a single sitting. The first short chapters present a skeletal synopsis of her personal history. The final chapter gives wing to her philosophical view of humankind. In between, the reader is given a glimpse of the frustrations leading to the Watts Riots and of the despair occasioned by the assassinations of Malcolm X and of Martin Luther King. This volume also continues earlier books' insightful descriptions of King, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin, adding much to the understanding of these men by the general public.

This slim volume is indeed the conclusion of the other five books that comprise Angelou's autobiographical works detailing the first half of her life. It is no more logical to begin reading this book without having first read the others than it is to read the final chapter of a novel before enjoying all of the preceding chapters. If one is to comprehend this book fully, he must begin with I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS and follow with its successors until he reaches A SONG FLUNG UP TO HEAVEN in the proper course of things.

If a criticism must be lodged against this book, it is only that its brevity is such that it scarcely warrants being published as a separate volume. It could easily have been appended to the preceding book, ALL GOD'S CHILDREN NEED TRAVELING SHOES. The fact that the end of the book comes so quickly forces the reader to wonder whether Angelou tired of her writing project, ran headlong into an ultimate publishing deadline, or wished to eke out a bit more recompense from her publisher by forcing one additional volume through his presses.

Some of the preceding autobiographical volumes have been described as having perhaps a bit too much virulence against Whites, perhaps a little too much hyperbole concerning the enduring effects of historical slavery. Some of Angelou's statements reveal a "reverse racism," to use one of her own phrases. Of course, the social climate in the United States during much of Angelou's life hardly engendered loving relations between White and Black citizens, yet the non-aggression of a Martin Luther King grew and matured in this environment, making Angelou's strident condemnations of the White population as much a factor of her own personality as of her social environment, and, after many pages, that stridency becomes tiresome. This final volume, however, is free of such hostility and is much more accepting of good people regardless of their color.

In brief, if one has read the first five volumes of Angelou's autobiography, then by all means do finish with this sixth one. On the other hand, picking this one up and reading it first will deprive the reader of an accurate appreciation of Angelou's artistry, in both its strengths and its weaknesses, as a prose writer and may well leave the reader with a complete mis-perception of Angelou's autobiographical books. Angelou's autobiographical series is one of those things that really should be experienced in the order of their creation, and doing so will give the reader a captivating view of this most unusual author and poet.
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"A Song Flung Up to Heaven" is the continuation of Maya Angelou's series of autobiographical narratives. This volume opens in the mid 1960s as Angelou returns to the United States from Africa with the intention of working with Malcolm X. The narrative follows Maya's life in Hawaii, California, and New York.
Maya reflects on her work as a stage performer and aspiring writer, and reminisces about her relationships with her son, her mother, and her friends. The book is really fascinating as it tells of her relationships and encounters with many noteworthy people: Martin Luther King Jr., Nichelle Nichols, Rosa Guy, and others. The author paints a particularly warm and moving portrait of the great writer and activist James Baldwin.
"Song" continues to explore many of the important themes of her other books, such as the relationship between Africans and African-Americans. Angelou does a good job of capturing intimate human relationships and placing them in the context of great movements in history. The book also looks at the genesis of her celebrated book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."
This is a well-written, very engaging book; I read all 212 pages in literally a single evening. I recommend as companion texts to this wonderful book the following: the previous volumes of Angelou's autobiography, the essays of James Baldwin, the autobiography of Malcolm X, Audre Lorde's "Zami," and any good collection of King's essays and speeches.
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on July 13, 2015
What a finale to a great series of autobiographies, and what a woman! I am so speechless! If you have not already read the other five books, please do, starting with "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."
I recommend for ANY woman, young, old, or middle aged, black, white, or otherwise. Maya Angelou will live forever through her body of written works; that is fact, not fiction.
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on December 22, 2002
Ms Angelou's A Song Flung Up To Heaven is a collection of her memoirs collaborated together to form this book of great historical events and how they effected her life.
I was surprised at some of the events that have taken place in her life and how she chose to handle them. I was also baffled at the lifestyle she was living while networking with some of the black elite entertainers and leaders, which demonstrates it is not what you know but who you know.
Ms Angelou hits hardest on her relationships with James Baldwin and the African, whom she never names. Although I thought she should have gone into more detail about her son Guy, she did express her love for him as well as her brother who had a profound affect on her stability as a woman. Ms. Angelou highlighted the Watts riots that took place in the 60's and all though she went into great detail about the riots, I think I may have missed the effects it had on her, nonetheless the actual events were well written and educational. I would definitely recommend this book.
Stacy Campbell
Apooo Bookclub
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on April 24, 2002
I am continually thrilled to catch up on Maya Angelou's life...or should I say her many lives all joined together in one!
Her life as a child in Stamps Arkansas, her life as a prostitute, dancer, singer, actor, her life in Africa, her life as a black activist, her life after Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and her life now. 74 and still rising.
And the dinner parties! I feel I have been to all of them. The delectable food, rich conversation, and guests to die for. I was there!
"A Song Flung Up To Heaven"
brings the reader on another journey...from Africa to the
United States. We meet Malcolm X briefly and Martin L. King...before they are assassinated.
We walk the dark, smoky, streets of Watts. We meet racism face to face, smell the reality of it.
And we meet "The African" (what a mysterious, sexy title)
this is what Angelou calls her African lover.
She describes him as intellegent, sexy, brilliant, astonishingly handsome, funny,
"And he loved me."
When he arrives in the United States she describes him again...
"When he walked in he was very beautiful and very black."
I love that!
Angelou is devastated by the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin L. King...
"Some words are spoken and not heard because the ears cannot
hear them."
There is an image in the book which stayed w/me of a black man walking around Watts bare chested with a drum around his neck...pounding and yelling. No songs or music, just pounding and yelling.
Like hope had dyed.
But Maya's friend tells her this:
"You know how we survived, Maya? We put surviving into our poems and our songs, in our folf tales, we danced surviving in congo square, and put it in our pots when we cooked pinto beans,we clothed ourselves in the colors of the rainbow..."
"Song" is not a book about hopelessness. It is a book about surviving, living, loving, singing, dancing, and rising above the very depths of dispair.
Maya uses an African phrase, (KO NE BRA)
which means
"Go and Come"
Maya, please come more than go ...
and when you do go,
please come back soon with a new song for us to savor.
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