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The Heart of a Woman (Maya Angelou's Autobiography #4)

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  14,078 ratings  ·  288 reviews
Oprah Book Club Selection, May 1997: Maya Angelou has had more lives than the proverbial cat, and in The Heart of a Woman she continues the account of her remarkable life begun in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In the first book of her bestselling autobiographical series, she describes her traumatic childhood in the small, segregated town of Stamps, Arkansas, during the ...more
336 pages
Published May 9th 1997 by Bantam Books (first published 1981)
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Chandra
This book is inspiring and reminds you that no matter what you are going through that it can be overcome. Maya Angelou's writing is honest, poetic and REAL. I find her style to be full of poetic imagery as is seen in this quote p. 52 "His features had the immutability of a Benin mask...his teeth like flags of truce. His skin the color of rich black dirt along the Arkansas river."

These lucid and eloquent quotes remind one to persevere in the face of all things opposing.

p. 43: "If I ended in defe
...more
Yasemin
Some killer quotes and life lessons in this book - highly recommended for that time you need some good advice from a wised-up woman who has managed to rise above all the odds in life and been kind enough to share it all with us.

Obviously great insight of the civil war times & being a woman, no, actually, being a woman of color under those circumstances. It makes you put things in perspective.

If I had a daughter I'd make sure she would be exposed to Angelou's work instead of some vampire/fant
...more
Laila
I really didn't like this book, which surprised me since I remember really liking "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Her life is interesting, no doubt, but I found the book to be trite, unnatural and self-indulgent. The dialogue and general intereactions between characters was not convincing, which I find disturbing considering that this is not a work of fiction.
Karla Mae
So many punchlines!

The thing about reading memoirs is that it allows you to see through the author's narrative. Maya Angelou did a remarkable job in making her point understood through vivid encounters, heated conversations, musings, constant reflections, and cultural subtleties.

Maya is a poet, a writer, a singer, an artist, an activist, and most of all, a mother. As a black American woman in Harlem, she learned how to play the game. Braving the streets of New York and London, she speaks with r
...more
Mary-Ellen Lynn
In 'The Heart of a Woman' Maya Angelou leaves California with her son, Guy, to go to New York, where she enters the world of black artists and writers. She begins to share her writing and performs at the Apollo Theater in Harlem; but the momentum of the story lies in her part in the struggle of black Americans for freedom: she is appointed Martin Luther King's Northern Coordinator. She takes a leading role in Genet's The Blacks, with a notable cast (including Godfrey Cambridge, Roscoe Lee Brown, ...more
Bythedeed
Read this riding my 'I know why the caged bird sings' high. What struck me as the most different - and the most disappointing - part of this book was that it read more as a chronology.

Really exciting things happening in her life and the world at this time, but didn't have the same story-telling charm as caged bird.

Like it none the less.
Tonya
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Julia
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Ari Haltom
Incredible. I've always loved to read the memoirs of interesting people, and Maya Angelou was, in my opinion, one of the most interesting people in the history of America. She fought hard for what she believed in, she loved hard, and she should be an inspiration to us all. To top off all of the interesting events in her memoir, her writing style flows beautifully, making this very hard to put down.
Lesley
This is the fourth in the series of autobiographies by Maya Angelou, one time stripper, dancer, singer, actress and letterly American poet laureate. I have read the first three and look forward to reading the fifth and final episode. Angelou is frank about her mistakes and her successes and how she rose from being a child brought up in the American south during the days when black people and white people lived entirely separate lives. In this volume, she has started to find her feet as a writer ...more
Lynn Wilson
I literally started and kept reading. Angelou is one courageous, outrageous woman. And this portion of her autobiography covers the late 50's and early 60's, a tumultuous time in this country with a great deal of similarity to the unrest we're currently living through, though the presenting issues seem different. (I'm not so sure they are, and the characters and mindsets seem the same to me.) For anyone who's interested in a creative life lived at full throttle, and/or who has questions about wh ...more
Sherrill Watson
I finally got a copy of this from my local Sun City library, a couple of months after Ms. Angeleau passed.

Written about her life from 1957 to approximately 1960(?. What a tumultuous life! I understand more why she was such an influence on people, including me! Poor Guy, ! She seems to take her life in increments of months, rather than years; each part of it would fill my lifetime.

First she was on a European tour; then in Sausalito on a houseboat and with her mother; then in Laurel Canyon, Los A
...more
Elizabeth Young
My mother and I have varying opinions on things- books, movies even tv shows. And though our tastes differed in many respects, down the road I found more and more that what she was saying about the writers that had struck a cord with her was dead on, right on the money. She didn't steer me wrong with Joyce Carol Oates nor did she with Maya and from this first book that she had bought for me (she very rarely bought books for me as a teenager) I felt I was being warmly hugged by them both. Strange ...more
Sanhita
I did not know that this is part of a series of her five autobiographical books. Since the title sounded interesting, I picked it up. Once I started reading, I just could not stop. It did not make me feel at any point of time that I have missed the prior volume. This book was complete by itself.
Writing an autobiography dispassionately and making it readable and interesting at the same time, is not easy.I found this book to be very readable. Her prose is lyrical and expressive.
What a time she liv
...more
Kelechi
Really enjoyed this volume of Maya Angelou's autobiography. Her writing is truthful and beautiful. I felt that I could relate to her as she discovered more about herself through her life experiences. Her depiction of her romantic relationships with the men she encountered at that point in her life, spoke to me as a woman forging a life for herself that is autonomous.
Jan
I think I have read all of Maya's biographies, this was probably my least favorite. It was her 4th and it had been a while since I had read the others. I just know that meeting Maya at the East Side library in Spokane years ago was a life changing experience. This book was mostly about the raising of her son Guy in his teen age years. She often moved and made decisions which must have been hard for him but he knew and trusted his mom and knew she would stand by him no matter what. This book had ...more
South Orange Library
This is an autobiographical work and very well-written. The book was so compelling that I was glued to my chair and could not care about my own responsibilities. I really did not know about the life of this amazing woman, except for her childhood, described in her first book. She was an overcomer, succeeding in jobs for which she had no training, and finding ways to use her many talents. However, in this book, she truly reveals her heart and it’s a broken heart. It was broken over and over. I ad ...more
Rift Vegan
This is the book where Maya gets into civil rights. It's wonderful when books you've read intersect... I had read Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom, and was delighted to recognize some people and groups and have extra insight with Maya's time in Africa.

Maya continues to be dumb about men, I'm beginning to wonder if she'll ever learn! But her passion is what is so amazing, and you can't help who you fall in love with, I suppose. :)

I loved the intro with her story about Billie Holiday... bot
...more
Yvette Danielle
I waited entirely too long to read this book! It sat on my "to read" shelf for too long and I'm sad to say it was her passing that made me pick it up and start to read, wanting to feel close to her through her words. Now I regret having waited.. This book is so rich in the History she shares of her accounts of The Harlem Renaissance era, working with Dr. King and the Literary Writer's Guild she was part of. Not to mention the pearls of wisdom and cherished insights she shares as a woman and moth ...more
Rene
Angelou provides insight to the 70's and the African-American experience. As someone not from that background, I found her perspective eye-opening and took it as valuable sensitivity training. Angelou was able to reveal the complexities of humanity with a clear view of weakness and strength, but with a non-judgemental voice. Her modest assessment of her own experience made her story one of all of us. Even so, I couldn't make it through the last chapters the went into greater detail of her involv ...more
Celia
I was not expecting an autobiography to be so engaging but that it was! I can't wait to read the other five books.
Meridith
This is Maya Angelou's 4th auto-biography. It is also my least favorite one so far. I had high hopes when I saw Oprah had picked this one for her book club, but was left confused as to why you would pick this one. Mind you, Maya Angelou's life is absolutely fascinating - the history she lived through and the people she met are unbelievably impressive....but this book lacked the story telling that I have enjoyed in the past 3 books. It was more of a historical book of facts, which is not a bad th ...more
Em
I confess, I liked this to start but by the end I was quite disappointed by it. I have huge admiration for Maya Angelou and have enjoyed her poetry. When this book started with an episode of her meeting Billie Holiday I was utterly fascinated. The portions about her time in New York, part of the Writer’s Guild, the Theater scene and the SCLC, her way of dealing with the threats of a gang made to her son, I found all of it interesting. But when she got to her own love life it seemed she was stand ...more
Kathy Khajeh-noori
Very interesting autobiography of a time in Maya's younger years while raising her teenaged son. I was amazed at the things she did and where she traveled while following her heart. She was so independent and ahead of her time. It was also enlightening to me to read about what was going on with racial tensions and struggle in our country and around the world from the viewpoint of the 50s and 60s. Her story is unique, but how she approached and adapted to her choices and changing roles resonates ...more
Caterina
Not only was Maya Angelou courageous, determined, and resilient — she was also romantic, impetuous, and, where it came to love, foolhardy — and that combination threw her into the middle of all kinds of interesting situations where angels — or more cautious, less confident souls — might fear to tread. Fortunately, she was also very resourceful. This episode begins in California where Maya is a night club singer and single mom, raising her son Guy. After she meets the dissipated Billie Holiday, w ...more
Therese
(Read 5/2009). This installment of the series was a great read (#4 of 6). Here she is really starting to come into her own as a woman, hence the title. She goes to NYC and does a little of this and a little of that: acting, singing, dancing, and so forth. She begins by still mostly thinking of herself as a performer and using the jobs she gets to pay the bills. At a certain point, her interest in writing is sparked and she joins the Harlem Writers Guild when prompted by friends.

In this book, she
...more
Mgh
I just finished reading The Heart of a Woman as I am also reading Daughters of Fortune, which I bought in England. I must say I am liking it more than the Heart of a Woman. However, The Heart of the Women has characters in it, which I think are even more real than the people we have living around us. The book incorporates so many feelings and keeps on shifting them, but it is yet extremely understanding.In The Heart of a Woman Maya Angelou leaves California with her son, Guy, to go to New York. ...more
Lorraine
Maya is a truly gifted story teller and writer. Her prose transported me into her life. My senses were "all over her business". I could smell the food, see and touch the people, hear the conversations.

Guy. Guy. Guy. I saw my son in him. Wow, he grew into a responsible young man with a joie de vivre. There's a universal assumption that children from a two-parent home fared better in life. But, I've always said "one healthy and mentally wholesome parent is better than two dysfunctional parents.

I t
...more
Cheryl
This installment of the autobiography covers about 10 years of the author's life as a single mother raising her son and trying to make a difference in the world. I know Maya Angelou now as a writer and professor and poet and philosopher. I was surprised to learn that she was also a blues singer and actress, an organizer for Martin Luther King's SCLC in the early 1960s, the wife of a South African freedom-fighter, and a journalist. Her life has been one of many struggles and adventures.

I have not
...more
Nana
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Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Ann Johnson April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, was an American poet, memoirist, actress and an important figure in the American Civil Rights Movement. In 2001 she was named one of the 30 most powerful women in America by Ladies Home Journal. Maya Angelou is known for her series of six autobiographies, starting with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, (1969 which was n ...more
More about Maya Angelou...

Other Books in the Series

Maya Angelou's Autobiography (6 books)
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • Gather Together in My Name
  • Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (Maya Angelou's Autobiography, #3)
  • All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes
  • A Song Flung Up To Heaven
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Letter to My Daughter Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now The Complete Collected Poems Gather Together in My Name

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