Author Spotlight: Maya Angelou

maya angelou author spotlight

Maya Angelou is an incomparable woman who defied explanation. She was a soulful singer, heartfelt poet, and the only woman who understood the pain and melancholy of the caged bird’s song. She is the phenomenal woman. She was an award-winning scholar of many acclaimed memoirs and author of countless poems that reached deep down into the depths of our very bones. Without a shadow of a doubt, there is just something about Angelou, about the legacy she bestowed to those who cherished her writings, that works.

maya angelou paperback paris author spotlight
Just a refresher: Who is Maya Angelou again?
maya angelou paperback paris author spotlight
Virago Press

Born April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, Angelou had quite the life. She was raised by her grandmother in a small town called Stamps, Arkansas, and only returned to live with her mother as a teenager. She experienced first-hand the injustice of racism, and at the tender age of seven, became a victim of rape at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. In retaliation for the assault, Angelou’s male family members attacked and killed the rapist, an event which traumatized her into silence.

Angelou spent years as a virtual mute, refusing to speak for fear of the effect of her words. It was only with the help of her grandmother and a family friend that she began to find her words again. As a teenager, she became pregnant and had a baby boy she named Guy. She struggled through her young adult years to provide for the two of them, always grateful for the love and assistance that was given to her by her mother.

By the mid-’50s, Angelou began to find her calling in acting, singing, dance, and, of course, writing, in which her career truly began to take off. In 1969, her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published and she became the first black author of a bestselling nonfiction book. That was when people started really noticing the sensation she was.

What has Angelou worked on?
maya angelou paperback paris author spotlight
Random House Trade Paperbacks

Though she has excelled tremendously in all her pursuits, Angelou is most known for her spectacular writing. She has penned countless memoirs including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Letters to My Daughter, and All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes. She has written numerous poems, some of her most famous including “Still I Rise,” “Phenomenal Woman,” and “On the Pulse of the Morning,” which she wrote for the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

For those unfamiliar with Angelou’s writing, I would personally suggest beginning with the memoir she’s most hailed for, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. You can truly get the feel for her writing with this book. Definitely check out her poetry too; you’re guaranteed to be moved to tears by some of if not all of her poems.

Maya will always live on

I’ve always been in love with the way Angelou writes. She has a way of reaching for the heart and making you care about what she is saying, and truly feel her words. Unfortunately, Angelou died peacefully in the comforts of her home on May 28, 2014. I remember feeling heartbroken when I heard the news. Angelou lived a spectacular life, and the literary world would not be the same without her. She lives on in the hearts of the readers who continue to love and honor her today, as well as the many lives she touched.

Since it is National Poetry Month, after all, I advise you pick up one of the icon’s books of poetry and give a salute to Miss Calypso herself, the phenomenal Maya Angelou.

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Lena Gilmour
the authorLena Gilmour
My name is Lena Gilmour. I'm a second-year university student passionate about reading and writing. I live in Canada and yes, it's as cold as they say it is.