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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Acclaimed memoirist Maya Angelou, who began her autobiographical series with the classic 1969 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, comes full circle with this tale of her return from Africa to the United States in 1964 to work with Malcolm X.
Poignantly, the book ends with Angelou writing the first line of I Know Why, as she decides it's time to chronicle her life: "I thought if I wrote a book, I would have to examine the quality in the human spirit that continues to rise despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…Rise and be prepared to move on and ever on."
Indeed, there are many wounds inflicted on Angelou in these pages. After flying from Ghana, she journeys to California to reunite with her mother and brother. On arrival, she learns that Malcolm has been murdered. Her despair is furthered by her realization that the reaction to the killing among San Francisco blacks is matter-of-fact.
After a stint as a nightclub singer, Angelou moves to the Watts section of Los Angeles to do market research on black women. She discovers that many of the Watts women are unhappy with their lives: Their husbands are not working, there are children to take care of, and they are increasingly forced to do more with less. Angelou misses nothing with her keen writer's eye: "Without work and steady salaries, the people could not envision tomorrows." Her observations prove to be prophetic, as the 1965 Watts riots break out. Once again, she is witness to the difficulties of African-American life in the mid-20th century.
But there is yet one more tragedy in store for her. In 1968, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. asks her to "travel the country and talk to black preachers" about his message of nonviolent protest. Before she can make the trip, King -- like Malcolm -- is silenced by an assassin's bullet.
It's most fortunate that Angelou has been able to turn her experiences, many of them difficult, into a series of classic memoirs. (Nicholas Sinisi)
Nicholas Sinisi is the Barnes & Noble.com Biography editor.