46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 1999
The first time I heard Maya A. speak, I had the little hairs at the back of my neck stand upright! I was moved and in awe.
I have read several of her works, all of which were cherished. However, after reading "Heart" I felt a deeper awareness. I am a middle class, white woman. I will NEVER understand the hate, fear, and anger experienced by anyone of color- no matter how much I learn, no matter how much I empathize. What I will share with all races is that emotions are emotions, no matter the color. Raising a child, falling in love and then realizing, "Oops, wrong one"...parental love, fear, anger...all make us human. I feel closer to this world for having forced myself to think about past misery and hatred. I wish my children the grace and dignity displayed by a remarkable woman. Thank You for reaching my soul.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 1999
Maya Angelou impresses me. What a life! So many lives at the same: it's crazy. I've just watched a movie (featuring Wesley Snipes) that she has recently directed and which reminded of the kind of woman that I thought she was when I read her "Heart": compassionate, human...
Reading Angelou made me aware of what it is was to be a woman and a mother in America. I've read about fictional characters that had comparable difficulties and faced them with astonishing courage and endurance, but reading Maya made it more real for me. Doing that while one has so many commitments at the same time certainly compels admiration.
Words are inadequate to express how I felt to enter the heart of a woman that has so many experiences to share and read a book that is so simply and yet masterfully written.
In this review, I didn't want to be academic and all (commenting on the themes, the syntax, the structure, etc.). I just wanted to communicated what Maya's heart has put in my heart. Go for it, it's humanizing and worth-reading.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2000
The Heart of a Woman is a continuation of Angelou's autobiography, chronicling her adult life as a mother, wife and freedom fighter. The story begins with her decision to move to New York in the late 1950's when Martin Luther King and Malcom X were the most central political figures of that time. There she begins to write, produces the Cabaret of Freedom, a collaboration of performances given to raise money for the SCLC, becomes employed then by the SCLC in a position only held by men previously. Shortly after she has been working such a prestigious job, she meets and marries an African freedom-fighter who wisks Angelou and her son, Guy, off to Cairo where she knows noone. Maya Angelou appears to create good out of bad, a woman faced with tragedy numerous times throughout her life, yet comes out triumphant and victorious each time. Never did I feel as if I was being led to lament with her difficulties. On the contrary, I felt admiration for a woman who inhabited a strong sense of self and an even stronger zest for living. An inspirational story I would recommend to anyone.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 1999
"The Heart of a Woman" tells of a courageous woman, Maya Angelou, who maintains a career as a dancer while raising a rebellious teenage son. She also identifies with the struggle and hardships of dealing with relationships. Her encounters with famous people such as Billie Holiday, Malcom X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, reflects strength in her writing and her passion for life. This book will inspire everyone to be successful in their everyday living. This great book will also bring out "The Heart of a Woman" in everyone.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2002
I just finished "Heart Of A Woman". I had read "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" last year. Several weeks ago I decided to read the rest of her books. Thus, I've read "Gather Together In My Name", and "Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas" in succesion. This book is one of the best that I've ever read, and I read alot of books! Her life is so interesting and eventful. Even though she relates her trajedies as well as her joys, you don't feel sorry for her, because through everything she remains true to herself and thereby comes out on top. Her tender devotion to her son is very touching. Through a childhood of constant changes he is depicted as a wonderful human being, equally devoted to his mother. There are parts of the book where I was laughing out loud at situations she gotten her self into and how she handled them. What a woman! I've just ordered "Travelin' Shoes", which I think is the last in the series of autobiographical books. I will continue to read her poems and whatever works she has produced. She is a woman to be respected and admired.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2006
THE HEART OF A WOMAN continues Angelou's autobiographical series that begins with I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS and continues with GATHER TOGETHER IN MY NAME and SINGIN' & SWINGIN' & GETTIN' MERRY LIKE CHRISTMAS. It is the fourth "installment" in this series, and, while it is an interesting recounting of Angelou's life into the decade of the 1960's, it will be more instructive for the reader who has followed the series of books in their chronological order.
HEART continues in exactly the same vein as the earlier books: The reader sees an Angelou who, despite many unfortunate life experiences, has yet to develop discernment insofar as male companions are concerned. Consequently, she continues as the naive pawn of males who betray her childlike faith and trust in them. After seeing this theme replayed so often in the books thus far, the reader begins to wonder whether Angelou sees herself through some sort of "victim mentality," a self-destructive image resulting from an abused childhood. Was she really taken advantage of so often and so consistently in her life? Would a biography written by a thoroughly objective outside observer show us the same Angelou that she herself depicts? Or is the picture that we see in her books one that was painted with the brush of self doubt and inferiority fashioned from the instability of her formative years? The reader should bear in mind that what we are reading may be more of a psychological self-analysis than demonstrable history. That does not make the book any less revealing of its author; it merely means that the reader should be aware of the type of revelation he is viewing.
Angelou's racist attitudes persist more or less unabated in HEART. When she takes a role in the play "The Blacks," she refuses to believe that a white French playwright could possibly understand the "Black struggle" in America, nor does she trust the white men involved in the production of the play; at one point, she depicts one of them as a devious, dismissive racist when he refuses to pay her extra for having composed two songs for the play. Perhaps he was, but then we are not permitted to see his interpretation of the situation either. Angelou sees herself as the object of intimidation by white policemen trying to keep order at a demonstration outside the UN building and depicts herself as being saved by cadres of Black supporters who physically rally to her side in the street. Fearing abandonment in Cairo, Egypt by her African consort, referred to as her husband though never legally married, she refuses to consider approaching the American consulate for help because it represents White America. Again, Angelou's descriptions of such occurrences may indeed be quite factual, yet one must wonder whether her interpretation of them is not warped by her own prejudiced view of Caucasians. At one point, she does have the objectivity to quote a Black colleague who points out her "reverse racism" to her. I believe that it is important to remember that, as we are reading Angelou's books, we are being shown the world as it appeared through her eyes. Whether or not this is identical to the objective world is quite another matter. We must bear in mind that an autobiography reveals more about the mind set of its author than about factual occurrences.
This series of autobiographical books is valuable not only for unveiling the thoughts, concepts and opinions of their author but also for showing us how the rest of the world, i.e., the non-Black world, was perceived by a Black woman born into legalized segregation, forced to endure the social and economic inequalities fostered by a segregated society, and exposed to the heady atmosphere of the American Civil Rights movement. Regardless of our reaction to Angelou's personal self at this stage of her life, her descriptions of the world around her are very instructive, but it behooves the reader to maintain his own objectivity and to remember that it is Angelou's interpretation of the world that he is being shown. Next comes ALL GOD'S CHILDREN NEED TRAVELING SHOES, and I am curious to see how Angelou's perceptions of her world will have evolved by that stage of her life.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
"The Heart of a Woman" is a continuation of Maya Angelou's multi-volume autobiography. Written a direct and uncomplicated style, this volume opens in 1957, with Maya as a young mother raising her son in California.
As the narrative unfolds, Maya moves to New York City, where she becomes involved in the Harlem Writers Guild. The author goes on to describe her experiences in the theater, her involvement in the civil rights movement, and her work as a journalist in Africa.
"The Heart of a Woman" is a fascinating evocation of a turbulent era in both American and African history. I was particularly intrigued by the story of Angelou's performance in Jean Genet's play "The Blacks"; Angelou offers some interesting insights into the relationship between artistic and racial issues. For those interested in women's studies, African-American literature, literary autobiography, or mid-20th century American history, this book is an essential text.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
For Maya Angelou, this line from an ancient spiritual epitomizes the civil rights struggle in 1957, a struggle in which she was intimately involved on many levels. Continuing the autobiography she started with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she reveals her personal life from 1957 - 1965, drawing the reader into the individual, human costs of segregation and detailing her passion and commitment to end it. It is her additional commitment to the welfare of her son, however, and her determination that he will become a man of honesty and principle that unite the several sections of this book and give it heart.
Angelou had overcome a tormented childhood to become a singer/dancer in the show Porgy and Bess before semi-settling in California. In 1957, Angelou, now twenty-nine and a single mother with a twelve-year-old son, decides to move from California to New York. There she entertains singer Billie Holiday for four days (an unforgettable character sketch), just three months before Holiday's death, and meets Godfrey Cambridge, then a New York taxi driver. With him, she organizes a revue in Harlem to raise money for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Drawn into the orbit of prominent black entertainers and showbiz entrepreneurs during the show, she also meets civil rights leaders, and eventually becomes a regional coordinator for SCLC. Her acceptance as a member of the Harlem Writers Guild leads to the beginning of her writing career. Throughout this period, her son Guy is going to public school, where on one occasion he has problems as the only black child, but when they move to a black neighborhood, he runs afoul of a violent black street gang. As Angelou deals with the big civil rights issues, Guy is a schoolboy dealing with the basic power struggles that underlie and complicate the need for justice in his own life.
Angelou is candid throughout her narrative, depicting people she meets "warts and all," but she is equally candid about her own actions, her sexual needs, and her impatience with formality and red tape. Her willingness to use her tongue as a rapier gives spice to the narrative and depicts Angelou as a formidable adversary. When she "marries" Vusumzi Make, a South African Freedom Fighter, and, with her son, moves to Egypt and later to Ghana, she continues her work toward a better life for Africans, while remaining an anchor for her son. In this intimate memoir, Angelou provides insights into the universal civil rights struggle, while, at the same time providing a very human picture of one woman's home life during this tumultuous period of history. n Mary Whipple
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 1998
I had just finished reading Maya's other book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" when I started "The Heart of a Woman". I really enjoyed the first book in the series, so I was very excited to get started on this one. The moment I began reading it, I felt something had gone terribly wrong. Self pity seems to be the underlying theme of this story. I don't want to be forced to feel sorry for this woman who has lived a very incredible life. This story also lacks the small bits of sweet humor that I found so endearing in the first one. If you are looking for the same enchanting storytelling you have found in other Angelou works, you won't find it here. Sorry....
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2012
I loved the first three books, but this one seems to have been written by someone else; the Maya who wrote I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings has disappeared, and the writer who took her place left me irritated, sometimes offended, and absolutely disappointed. This is the last book of Maya's that I will read, as she has completely turned me off with an arrogance, hatefulness, and extreme sense of entitlement that were not present at all in the first three books.
I also had to comment on her frustrating contradictions regarding white people. She often embraces her mother's feelings towards whites, as evidenced by her agreement with the following example: "Black folks can't change because white folks won't change." But later, when there are many white people who are diligently and passionately fighting for the civil rights movement and for progressive change to benefit blacks, she chooses to condone and even advocate Malcolm X's beliefs that "There are whites who give monely to the SCLC the NAACP and the Urban League. Some even go so far as to march with you in the streets. But let me tell you who they are. Any white American who says he's your friend is either weak or he's an infiltrator. Either he'll be too scared to help you when you need help or he's getting close to you so he can find out your plans and deliver you back in chains to his brothers." So which is it Maya? Apparently white folks can't win, for when they do nothing, they are continuing to enforce black oppression, and when they do something, they are scheming to keep the black man down through evil pretension and sly, malevolent friendship. I couldn't believe it when I read the passage where Maya actually agrees with all of this.
Lastly, her marriages and relationships, which disintegrate, are all blamed solely and completely on the men. She is always faultless, the victim, the one who has to leave because she has been wronged, or the one who has been wronged because she has been left! I do not recall a single instance where Maya takes any responsibility for the multiple problems in her relationships with men. She hops to and fro, from man to man (Thomas to Vus is a great example), and seems to expect true love every time, but is then shocked and disappointed to find that the men actually have flaws.
There were other things that bothered me, but I will stop because I still have respect for Maya. As I stated previously, I thoroughly enjoyed and admired I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, along with the subsequent two books, and fell in love with the joys and tribulations of Maya's young life. I was in awe of her wit and humor, and the honesty and directness with which she told her bittersweet story. I only wish I had never touched The Heart of a Woman; it is angry, smug, and self-serving, and does not compare in any way to her other work.