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Mom & Me & Mom Hardcover – April 2, 2013
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Angelou’s highly acclaimed autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), chronicles her growing up in Stamps, Arkansas, with her paternal grandmother and the trauma that resulted from a visit to her mother’s family. In this loving recollection of a complicated relationship, Angelou for the first time details the mother-daughter journey to reconciliation and unwavering connection and support. After their reunion in San Francisco, angry and resentful at what she viewed as the abandonment of her and her brother, Angelou took years to warm to her mother, Vivian Baxter, calling her Lady rather than Mother. But Baxter’s unconditional acceptance and appreciation of her daughter, through unwed motherhood, a failed marriage, and career ups and downs, won Angelou’s love and respect. Angelou vividly portrays a spirited woman, unbowed by the limitations of race and sex, who ran a boardinghouse and gambling house and taught her daughter the determination, street smarts, and survival skills that have helped Angelou carve a space for her identity and formidable talents. Photos enhance this remarkable and deeply revealing chronicle of love and healing. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The celebrated author gives the backstory on I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) in this revealing look at her relationship with her mother, which is sure to receive a tsunami’s worth of publicity. --Vanessa Bush
“Mom & Me & Mom is delivered with Angelou’s trademark good humor and fierce optimism. If any resentments linger between these lines, if lives are partially revealed without all the bitter details exposed, well, that is part of Angelou’s forgiving design. As an account of reconciliation, this little book is just revealing enough, and pretty irresistible.”—The Washington Post
“Moving . . . a remarkable portrait of two courageous souls.”—People
“[The] latest, and most potent, of her serial autobiographies . . . [a] tough-minded, tenderhearted addition to Angelou’s spectacular canon.”—Elle
“Mesmerizing . . . Angelou has a way with words that can still dazzle us, and with her mother as a subject, Angelou has a near-perfect muse and mystery woman.”—Essence
“True to her style, [Angelou’s] writing cuts to the chase with compression and simplicity, and there in the background is a calypso smoothness, flurries and showers of musicality between the moments of wickedness. . . . A tightly strung, finely tuned memoir about life with her mother.”—Kirkus Reviews
“In this loving recollection of a complicated relationship, Angelou for the first time details the mother-daughter journey to reconciliation and unwavering connection and support. . . . Angelou vividly portrays a spirited woman. . . . [A] remarkable and deeply revealing chronicle of love and healing.”—Booklist
“Written with her customary eloquence . . . follows in the episodic style of Angelou’s earlier volumes of autobiography, pulling the reader along effortlessly. The lessons and the love presented here will speak to those trying to make their way in the world.”—Publishers Weekly
“In straightforward style, Mom & Me & Mom dives deeply into Angelou’s complicated relationship with her mother. . . . At 84, Angelou shows few signs of slowing down.”—BookPage
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Ms. Angelou’s social and emotional development had changed dramatically when she and her brother were reunited with their mother ten years later. Ms. Angelou had to loosen her armor and reconnect with her mother, whom she called “Lady.”
Ms. Angelou’s mom was an unusual character to say the least. She was tough-minded, plucky, owned various undertakings, had no filter, and admitted when they were young, she had no time for infants and toddlers. Slowly, mother-daughter relationship blossomed. Although her mom was no June Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver) or Clair Olivia Huxtable (Cosby Show), she was the type that would have your back when blindsided by undesirable events.
Everything considered, from the start, this was not your typical mother-daughter relationship. Yet, over the years evolved a healthy, loving, and meaningful bond between Ms. Angelou and her mother.
I gave this book four stars.
Two months ago, I read Maya Angelou’s “Letter to My Daughter” – the first of Angelou’s books I read. This morning, I read “Mom & Me & Mom” which was delightful, wonderful, sometimes sad, sometimes not, but throughout has that same lovely tone that I found in “Letter to My Daughter.” I’d read poems of hers before, seen her speak, although not in person, but there’s something about her that just reaches inside your soul and tugs on it while reading, or listening, to her words. Someday, I will get an audio copy of this to listen to, I suspect just hearing her distinctive voice read these words would add another level of impact.
”Suppose I really am going to become somebody, imagine.”
Mothers and Daughters. In Maya’s case, she barely knew her mother, Vivian Baxter, before she was shipped off to live with her paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, along with her brother Bailey. Bailey was five years old to Maya’s three. Babies, put on a train with notes attached to them.
”I was three and Bailey was five when we arrived in Stamps, Arkansas. We had identification tags on our arms and no adult supervision. “
It would take a while for them to re-establish a place for her mother in Maya’s life, and primarily in her heart. For a long time, she called her Lady, which made me smile, a name my daughter calls me now and then. When she was first re-entering that space, with a new stepfather in the picture, their relationship was cautious, tentative, slowly growing over the years – but growing.
“She had my back, supported me. This is the role of the mother, and in that visit I really saw clearly, and for the first time, why a mother is really important. Not just because she feeds and also loves and cuddles and even mollycoddles a child, but because in an interesting and maybe an eerie and unworldly way, she stands in the gap. She stands between the unknown and the known.”
There are some of the stories of her life that are included in her “Letter to My Daughter,” but there is sometimes comfort in that, much like once-again hearing some of my father’s favourite flying stories when he had a new, and willing, audience. There’s joy in hearing wisdom repeated, tales that your heart takes and translates into your life, your language, your being. I loved reading about the progression of their relationship, Maya and her mother, Vivien, when all those doubts had faded away, when proof of love was no longer required or questioned, and most of all I loved seeing more of her heart and its wisdom.
”Her love and support encouraged me to dare to live my life with pizazz.”