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The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou
 
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The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou [Format Kindle]

Maya Angelou

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Prologue

"What you looking at me for?
I didn't come to stay . . ."

I hadn't so much forgot as I couldn't bring myself to remember. Other things were more important.

"What you looking at me for?
I didn't come to stay . . ."

Whether I could remember the rest of the poem or not was immaterial. The truth of the statement was like a wadded-up handkerchief, sopping wet in my fists, and the sooner they accepted it the quicker I could let my hands open and the air would cool my palms.

"What you looking at me for . . . ?"

The children's section of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church was wiggling and giggling over my well-known forgetfulness.

The dress I wore was lavender taffeta, and each time I breathed it rustled, and now that I was sucking in air to breathe out shame it sounded like crepe paper on the back of hearses.

As I'd watched Momma put ruffles on the hem and cute little tucks around the waist, I knew that once I put it on I'd look like a movie star. (It was silk and that made up for the awful color.) I was going to look like one of the sweet little white girls who were everybody's dream of what was right with the world. Hanging softly over the black Singer sewing machine, it looked like magic, and when people saw me wearing it they were going to run up to me and say, "Marguerite [sometimes it was 'dear Marguerite'], forgive us, please, we didn't know who you were," and I would answer generously, "No, you couldn't have known. Of course I forgive you."

Just thinking about it made me go around with angel's dust sprinkled over my face for days. But Easter's early morning sun had shown the dress to be a plain ugly cut-down from a white woman's once-was-purple throwaway. It was old-lady-long too, but it didn't hide my skinny legs, which had been greased with Blue Seal Vaseline and powdered with the Arkansas red clay. The age-faded color made my skin look dirty like mud, and everyone in church was looking at my skinny legs.

Wouldn't they be surprised when one day I woke out of my black ugly dream, and my real hair, which was long and blond, would take the place of the kinky mass that Momma wouldn't let me straighten? My light-blue eyes were going to hypnotize them, after all the things they said about "my daddy must of been a Chinaman" (I thought they meant made out of china, like a cup) because my eyes were so small and squinty. Then they would understand why I had never picked up a Southern accent, or spoke the common slang, and why I had to be forced to eat pigs' tails and snouts. Because I was really white and because a cruel fairy stepmother, who was understandably jealous of my beauty, had turned me into a too-big Negro girl, with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth that would hold a number-two pencil.

"What you looking ..." The minister's wife leaned toward me, her long yellow face full of sorry. She whispered, "I just come to tell you, it's Easter Day." I repeated, jamming the words together, "Ijustcometotellyouit'sEasterDay," as low as possible. The giggles hung in the air like melting clouds that were waiting to rain on me. I held up two fingers, close to my chest, which meant that I had to go to the toilet, and tiptoed toward the rear of the church. Dimly, somewhere over my head, I heard ladies saying, "Lord bless the child," and "Praise God." My head was up and my eyes were open, but I didn't see anything. Halfway down the aisle, the church exploded with "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" and I tripped over a foot stuck out from the children's pew. I stumbled and started to say something, or maybe to scream, but a green persimmon, or it could have been a lemon, caught me between the legs and squeezed. I tasted the sour on my tongue and felt it in the back of my mouth. Then before I reached the door, the sting was burning down my legs and into my Sunday socks. I tried to hold, to squeeze it back, to keep it from speeding, but when I reached the church porch I knew I'd have to let it go, or it would probably run right back up to my head and my poor head would burst like a dropped watermelon, and all the brains and spit and tongue and eyes would roll all over the place. So I ran down into the yard and let it go. I ran, peeing and crying, not toward the toilet out back but to our house. I'd get a whipping for it, to be sure, and the nasty children would have something new to tease me about. I laughed anyway, partially for the sweet release; still, the greater joy came not only from being liberated from the silly church but from the knowledge that I wouldn't die from a busted head.

If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat.

It is an unnecessary insult.


Chapter 1

When I was three and Bailey four, we had arrived in the musty little town, wearing tags on our wrists which instructed--"To Whom It May Concern"--that we were Marguerite and Bailey Johnson Jr., from Long Beach, California, en route to Stamps, Arkansas, c/o Mrs. Annie Henderson.

Our parents had decided to put an end to their calamitous marriage, and Father shipped us home to his mother. A porter had been charged with our welfare--he got off the train the next day in Arizona--and our tickets were pinned to my brother's inside coat pocket.

I don't remember much of the trip, but after we reached the segregated southern part of the journey, things must have looked up. Negro passengers, who always traveled with loaded lunch boxes, felt sorry for "the poor little motherless darlings" and plied us with cold fried chicken and potato salad.

Years later I discovered that the United States had been crossed thousands of times by frightened Black children traveling alone to their newly affluent parents in Northern cities, or back to grandmothers in Southern towns when the urban North reneged on its economic promises.

The town reacted to us as its inhabitants had reacted to all things new before our coming. It regarded us a while without curiosity but with caution, and after we were seen to be harmless (and children) it closed in around us, as a real mother embraces a stranger's child. Warmly, but not too familiarly.

We lived with our grandmother and uncle in the rear of the Store (it was always spoken of with a capital s), which she had owned some twenty-five years.

Early in the century, Momma (we soon stopped calling her Grandmother) sold lunches to the sawmen in the lumberyard (east Stamps) and the seedmen at the cotton gin (west Stamps). Her crisp meat pies and cool lemonade, when joined to her miraculous ability to be in two places at the same time, assured her business success. From being a mobile lunch counter, she set up a stand between the two points of fiscal interest and supplied the workers' needs for a few years. Then she had the Store built in the heart of the Negro area. Over the years it became the lay center of activities in town. On Saturdays, barbers sat their customers in the shade on the porch of the Store, and troubadours on their ceaseless crawlings through the South leaned across its benches and sang their sad songs of The Brazos while they played juice harps and cigarbox guitars.

The formal name of the Store was the Wm. Johnson General Merchandise Store. Customers could find food staples, a good variety of colored thread, mash for hogs, corn for chickens, coal oil for lamps, light bulbs for the wealthy, shoestrings, hair dressing, balloons, and flower seeds. Anything not visible had only to be ordered.

Until we became familiar enough to belong to the Store and it to us, we were locked up in a Fun House of Things where the attendant had gone home for life.


Each year I watched the field across from the Store turn caterpillar green, then gradually frosty white. I knew exactly how long it would be before the big wagons would pull into the front yard and load on the cotton pickers at daybreak to carry them to the remains of slavery's plantations.

During the picking season my grandmother would get out of bed at four o'clock (she never used an alarm clock) and creak down to her knees and chant in a sleep-filled voice, "Our Father, thank you for letting me see this New Day. Thank you that you didn't allow the bed I lay on last night to be my cooling board, nor my blanket my winding sheet. Guide my feet this day along the straight and narrow, and help me to put a bridle on my tongue. Bless this house, and everybody in it. Thank you, in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen."

Before she had quite arisen, she called our names and issued orders, and pushed her large feet into homemade slippers and across the bare Iye-washed wooden floor to light the coal-oil lamp.

The lamplight in the Store gave a soft make-believe feeling to our world which made me want to whisper and walk about on tiptoe. The odors of onions and oranges and kerosene had been mixing all night and wouldn't be disturbed until the wooded slat was removed from the door and the early morning air forced its way in with the bodies of people who had walked miles to reach the pickup place.

"Sister, I'll have two cans of sardines."

"I'm gonna work so fast today I'm gonna make you look like you standing still."

"Lemme have a hunk uh cheese and some sody crackers."

"Just gimme a couple them fat peanut paddies." That would be from a picker who was taking his lunch. The greasy brown paper sack was stuck behind the bib of his overalls. He'd use the candy as a snack before the noon sun called the workers to rest.

In those tender mornings the Store was full of laughing, joking, boasting and bragging. One man was going to pick two hundred pounds of cotton, and another three hundred. Even the children were promising to bring home fo' bits and six bits.

The champion picker of the day before was the hero of the dawn. If he prophesied that the cotton in today's field was going to be sparse and stick to the bolls like glue, every listener would grun...

Revue de presse

“This testimony from a black sister marks the beginning of a new era in the minds and hearts of all black men and women. . . . I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings liberates the reader into life simply because Maya Angelou confronts her own life with such a moving wonder, such a luminous dignity. I have no words for this achievement, but I know that not since the days of my childhood, when the people in books were more real than the people one saw every day, have I found myself so moved. . . . Her portrait is a biblical study in life in the midst of death.”—James Baldwin

“Simultaneously touching and comic.”—The New York Times

“It is a heroic and beautiful book.”—The Plain Dealer

“Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written and exceptional autobiographical narrative . . . a beautiful book—an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.”—Kirkus Reviews

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1934 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 1186 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0679643257
  • Editeur : Modern Library; Édition : Modern Library Ed (18 avril 2012)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B005FGUXGU
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°13.579 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Amazon.com: 4.9 étoiles sur 5  70 commentaires
72 internautes sur 73 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 5 stars is simply not enough! 6 juin 2005
Par BMAR - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
This is the collection I've been waiting years for....

Simply put, this is the collection of a life time. The collected autobiographies of Maya Angelou is a must have for the diehard fan. I've always said that the only thing I truly envy about Oprah Winfrey is her beautiful relationship with this wise, brilliant woman. Dr. Angelou's life is an amazing story that has unfolded over decades through her series of six autobiographical books. From the very first book, "I know why the caged bird sings", which focused on the silenced young Maya growing up part-time in Arkansas with her grandmother, through the tales of the young independent woman who struck out to pursue her own destiny in the U.S. and abroad, all the way to the celebrated writer of today, this collection takes us along for the amazing journey that is Dr. Angelou's life.

Having read each of her autobiographical books over the past 20 years, I truly looked forward to the opportunity to relive these fascinating accounts again through this volume. As we traverse the terrain of her life, which contains many fascinating details including her international singing career, her struggle as a single mother, her sojourn to Africa and her involvement in the civil right's movement, we are reminded of the depth of experiences and wealth of knowledge that she possesses. I stood firmly once again in wonder of this phenomenal woman. To see a woman emerge from such a journey with the beautiful confidence and poise that Dr. Angelou possesses is nothing short of amazing and completely uplifting.

This collection is a dream come true for me and now one of my prized possessions. I was truly reminded that when it comes to writing and living life fully, for me no one does it better.
31 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Through the eyes of an african american woman 19 avril 2007
Par Alicia Castillo Holley - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
I am not African American, not African, not American, and this book was such an eye opener. It is so rich in humanity, it is a pleasure to read. Each one of the 6 books is written with a distinctive voice as a person is maturing. Maya has a way of writing that is refreshing, intimate and profound.

Through her eyes we become aware of the distinctive culture and values that her characters share or challenge. We see the need that every person has to live life fully and the questions we all need to answer about who we are and what are we here for.

I particularly liked the "All God's chhildren need traveling shoes" best. this book is a must for people who seek to accept that we can be different, yet valued.

It is a distinctive book because it is written in a way that lifts the spirits and intrigues the intelect. .... "to the determination to be no victim of any kind".
21 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 My eyes have been opened!!! 16 février 2006
Par Terri L. Harris - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Other than Maya's poems, I have never read her autobiographies. WOW barely describes what I read and felt. I always thought of Maya to be just what she is....a poet, an author. To read how her early life was, I see how her life's experiences brought her to where she is today. Not only does she speak honestly, her style of writing makes one feel they are her in the books. The size of the book may seem intimidating, but I could not put it down. I had to schedule myself to study for my class and read this book!
10 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 maja in detail 10 avril 2007
Par M. Goodman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I happened to hear her speak at a lecture series. She spoke for an hour and I was interested to read more about her life. I am only on page 280 but this woman is amazing and her writing style is so crisp and clear, it is as captivating as she was as a speaker. I enthusiatically recommend this book.
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE THIS COLLECTION!!! 21 mai 2014
Par Kindle Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
As a woman, having grown up in the south and being raised by my Grandmother I TOTALLY relate to Maya's story of her early childhood, however anyone who reads this will be touched and amazed at the things Ms. Angelou went through and how she made it to where she is today. This collection takes you through REAL struggles and amazing triumphs of one our true modern day icons. I can not say enough about this collection in a review, but it changed my life. READ IT!
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