"All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes" is an effective continuation of Maya Angelou's monumental, multi-volume autobiographical narrative. This installment begins in the early 1960s, with Maya and her son living in Africa. As a whole, this book is a fascinating meditation on the ties and disjunctions that exist between African-Americans and black Africans.
Maya reminisces about working for the University of Ghana, seeking employment as a journalist at the "Ghanaian Times," and beginning to pick up the Fanti language of Ghana. Particularly fascinating are her memories of the death of W.E.B. DuBois, the visit of Malcolm X to Africa, and her visit to Germany to perform in a production of Jean Genet's play "The Blacks." Angelou's book is both the vibrant record of an extraordinary woman, and an important portrait of Africa at a key era in its modern history.
on August 10, 2006
From purely a literary standpoint, I find ALL GOD'S CHILDREN NEED TRAVELING SHOES perhaps the best of Angelou's series of autobiographical works that I have encountered thus far. It is the fifth "installment," having been preceded by I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS, GATHER TOGETHER IN MY NAME, SINGIN' AND SWINGIN' AND GETTIN' MERRY LIKE CHRISTMAS, and THE HEART OF A WOMAN. While I suppose that any of these could be read in isolation, to do so would be analogous to reading a single chapter from a full-length novel. One may enjoy the contents of that single chapter but will miss all the background material that explains how the characters reached that point in time and space as well as everything that follows to explain and wrap-up the story. For the same reasons, one really should read each of Angelou's books and in chronological order, too. Consequently, if one is examining reader reviews before purchasing ALL GOD'S CHILDREN, and if this is the first of Angelou's books being considered, please wait. Reading the others first will enhance significantly the reader's enjoyment of this one.
Pure autobiographies tend, in my experience, to be rather dull reading for the most part. Where is the excitement in a list of events and dates? That sort of dry recitation of historical facts is the reason that most of us were likely bored to somnambulance by our high school history textbooks. Happily, this is not at all that sort of autobiography. What one finds in Angelou's books is the world seen through her eyes and interpreted by her mind, and she carries with her the filters built strand by strand by her life experiences.
What "life experiences"? Being born Black into a legally, socially, culturally and thoroughly segregated country. Being abandoned by one's father. Being shipped across country by one's mother to be raised by an aging grandparent. Feeling the constant scorn and belittlement fostered by racial segregation. Bearing a child when one is still herself a child. Being duped by another into prostitution. Failing at an attempt at marriage. On the other hand, conversing with such figures as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Touring Europe as member of a musical cast. Living in Africa. Angelou's experiences, both negative and positive, were emotionally extreme, or at least significant, events, and they created interpretative filters that are quite different from those of essentially all of her readers. This difference is what makes her books captivating to read and worthy of her readers' consideration.
I suggest that the epitome of Angelou's skill as a prose author of the first five books I have mentioned above comes in the closing chapter of ALL GOD'S CHILDREN. Her encounter with the Ewe tribal women in the marketplace in Ghana's village of Keta is expressed in nearly supernatural terms. In the actual event, she is merely mistaken for another person, but, to Angelou, the encounter firmly establishes Africa as her spiritual homeland, the origin of her own ancestors who, generations earlier, were sold into slavery in a strange land across the ocean. The skill with which she describes her feelings at this encounter is one to which any writer might aspire.
I must admit to another aspect of Angelou's writing that I find almost annoying, however, and that is her repeated and continuous reference to the effects of slavery. If any evil exists in the universe, if sin seeks an embodiment, if a cause for all the misery in the contemporary world must be identified, Angelou finds it in slavery. Judging solely by the attitude revealed in these five books, one could conclude only that all Caucasians are blue-eyed devils, that they alone made possible the eternal and unforgivable sin of enslavement, that no redemption is possible and that racial integration is never achievable or even desirable. If there is such a concept as "original sin," it has nothing to do with a mythological Adam or Eve in a "garden of Eden" but rather with the insufferable conceit of Whites and the horror of slavery, most particularly slavery in the United States. To judge by the attitude that pervades these five books, one would think that Angelou was herself born into slavery, exploited economically and sexually by her White masters, and denigrated to the very edge of sanity. Not to excuse or to minimize in any way the physical and emotional pain of slavery, its immorality or absence of any ethical justification whatsoever, but "methinks the lady doth protest too much." She claims for herself an understanding of the debasement of slavery that her own history does not support. She assumes a mantle as spokesperson for long dead generations that she is not qualified to wear. To what extent historical slavery and racial prejudice may bear the blame for what were her own poor choices in life I am hardly qualified to say, yet I would caution the reader to bear in mind the fact that we are seeing events through the author's intellectual filters and that no one's filters are totally objective.
Having said that, I hurriedly add that my critical observation should in no way deter anyone from reading Angelou's books. On the contrary, while I may feel that she is at times presumptuous in assuming spokesperson status on the topics of slavery and contemporary racial bigotry, her perceptions provide many revelations for her readers and are worth noting. On now to the next book of this series, A SONG FLUNG UP TO HEAVEN.
on August 4, 1998
In 1962, Maya Angelou went to Ghana with her 17-year son. "All God's Children Need Travelling Shoes" tells the story of her personal journey to understand herself as a black American. This book provides fascinating insights about Maya Angelou in her early years and about Afro-American culture in general. In rich language, she provides both historical snapshots and compelling stories about Ghana's gentle people, herself, and the diaspora that brought black people to America.
on February 26, 2004
Maya Angelou's autobiography reveals a loving and spiritual soul that many of today's readers aren't getting enough of. Her devoted and rich style of writing is very moving and will leave you in awe.
In his "journal", Maya Angelou confesses her opinion about different cultures around the world. Being an African- American and having lived in africa, she writes with a strong love for the people of that continent. She shows her love for the Christian religion and her son, Guy. The two of them moved through Cairo, Ghana, Liberia, and Egypt gracing others with her talents and liveliness. Even after enduring difficult times and tragedies, Maya stilled managed to gain self control and keep her boldness to find a way out.
Maya is a poet, a performer, a writer, a traveler, a musician and a great mother. of all of her accomplishments, I was most impresses with her poetry which is occasionally expressed throughout her book. With her poetic voice, she turns her life story into a great and powerful poem. "The moon is "red" as fire over black hills" is an expression from one of her great poems the critics acknowledge. I think that it was a good idea to add quotes from many of her poems because then you not only learn her words, but you almost "become" her words. I really do look up to all of Maya Angelou's accomplishments.
I think that Maya Angelou's words will be very inspiring to readers all around. Not only is she inspiring to me, but to many others that have read her books. William McPherson from the Washington Post Bookk World says, "Maya Angelou regards the world and herself with intelligence and wit; she regards the vents of her life with style and grace". I really do argee with him that she is very inspirational in everthing that she does.
This is a deservedly popular book about the amazing ife, love and goals of Maya Angelou. I can only hope that this book will touch your heart like it did mine.
on May 24, 1999
I finished this book feeling just a little more connected to an Africa about which I've only been able to fantasize. This book sings to your heart with prose that is rhythmic and satiating, delicious to the eyes and savory to the tongue. For me, the only thing that could possibly top "Auntie's" writing is her speaking. In a voice that booms with quietness, Maya stokes and caresses, calms and enlightens. I've never had a disappointing experience with her autobiographical work or poetry. She's simply wonderful.
on April 22, 2004
I thought it was a great book. It was my first ever read of Maya Angelou. I think the book has made me a fan of her. Her style of writing was mellifluous, sincere, and truthful.
I am not a very emotional person, but the part that made my eyes water was when Maya went to the market in Kato, as the book ended. She met Ewe women who instantly confused her for an Ewe. They were sure Maya was an Ewe decendant because of her features and tone of voice. Once, she was mistaken for a Bambara, and an Ahanta as well. It was beautiful. I admire Maya for her having fortitude and being curious and passionate. She loves her people and was more than willing to come back home to America to help them by working for Malcolm X, promoting civil rights, et al. I have great respect for her. She also learnt how to speak the Fanti language, which I would guess was not easy.
It was a great autobiography. I wonder what would have happened if she had married the Malian Fulfulde man.
on February 22, 2014
It's hard to imagine that this book is the 5th in a series of memoirs by Maya Angelou, but it was written to describe her at about age 33 to 35. Few people could justify having even one memoir by that time, not to mention five. But she carries it off with poetic language, fiery debate, humor, and total honesty. I can't think of a book quite like it.
The setting of this book is Ghana in the early 1960s, where Angelou moved with her 17-year-old son so that he could start college. Angelou's premise at the time was, basically, that the US was hopelessly racist, and she would never get fair treatment. This was a common attitude among "negroes" of that period, as some freedoms had emerged but equality was nowhere in sight. For Angelou, this was especially painful, as she was an activist and thinker who knew what freedom would taste like, but felt she wouldn't get it. Even with her successes in her 20s as a performer, poet, activist and supporter of Martin Luther King Jr., she felt the burdens of society at the time.
So, she joined about a hundred other American expatriates who tried to find themselves in Real Africa. This story details the joys of it -- sights, sounds, smells, the warmth of people, the power of not being denigrated for her skin color --- but also the distance that she had from real Africans.
The honesty of her portrayal is what makes the book so powerful. She talks about her joys, but also her mistakes. She talks about the limits on the jobs she could get (she was basically a secretary) and the trembling way that she and her friends awaited meetings with high-level people in government and the arts. She writes about an affair she had with a wealthy Libyan and her refusal to become his 3rd wife. And she writes about meeting Malcolm X on his way back from Mecca (his conversion to understanding that not all whites were evil ---- an idea Angelou herself was wrestling with). It's sort of shocking to read her perspective on America. The language of black activists at the time was so filled with anger and hate and references to slavery, rape, etc. It seems like we've moved beyond that, though I'm sure that private conversations today are more harsh than what most black leaders are willing to put on paper.
Powerful stuff. In the end, she decides she's too American to live in Africa, that she's neither fully here nor there, but that she must make the best of it in the country of her birth. Little did she know at the time that the Civil Rights Act was just around the corner, followed by the tragedy of the assassination of MLK and Robert Kennedy.
on February 14, 2015
I love all of May Angelou's many books that I've read. Her writing is so honest and humbling. She writes about black culture in a way as you can understand, and appreciate her/their struggles. I enjoy her autobiographical writing in books more than the poetry. Since she was a famous poet laureate, it shows you what I know. This book was no more or less excellent than the other books that I have read, I know why the Cage Bird Sings, Me and Mom, Wouldn't take Anything for My Journey Now, etc. etc. She was a leader among women with fantastic accomplishment. I am blessed to have one of signed poems, Our Grandmothers.
on March 14, 2004
Maya Angelou's auto-biography reveals a loving and spiritual soul that many of today's readers don't get enough of. Her devoted and rich way of writing is very moving and will leave you in awe.
In his "journa", Maya Angelou confesses her opinions about different cultures around the world. Being and African-American and having lived in Africa, she writes with a really strong love for the people of that continent. She shows her love for the Christian religion and her son, Guy. The two of them moved through Cairo, Ghana, Liberia, and Egypt gracing others with her talents and liveliness. Even after enduring difficult times and tragedies, Maya's character stilled managed to gain self-control and keep her boldness to find a way out.
Maya is a poet, a performer, a writer, a traveler, a musician and a mother. Of all of her accomplishments, I was most impressed with her poetry which is occasionally expresses throughout this book. With her poetic voice, she turns her life story into a great and powerful poem. The moon is "red as fire over black hills" is an expression from one of her great poems that critics acknowledge. I think that is was a good idea to add quotes from many of her poems because then you not only learn her words, but you almost "become" her words. I really do look up to all of Maya Angelou's accomplishments.
I think that Maya Angelou's words will be very inspiring to readers all around. Not only is she inspiring to me, but to many others that have read her books. William McPherson, from the Washington Post Book World says,"Maya Angelou regards the world and herself with intelligence and wit; she regards the events of her life with style and grace". I agree with him that she is very inspirational in everything that she does.
This is a deservedly popular book about the amazing life, love and goals of Maya Angelou. I can only hope that this book will touch your heart like it did mine!
on June 4, 2014
This book chronicles Maya's return to Africa. I always thought Africans embraced one another. There is a big difference between Africans, and African Americans. I was also reminded of just how politically involved Ms. Angelou has been throughout her life. Running in the same circles as Malcolm X, and many others. Really interesting history of that time period, as well as Ms. Angelou's search for "her people."