Inside 'The Heart of a Woman'

Autobiography details Angelou's writing career and activism

In Summary

• In her fourth autobiography, Angelou takes you through her colourful life as an artiste, in activism and as a mother.


TITLE: The Heart of a Woman

AUTHOR: Maya Angelou

GENRE: Autobiography

Book review by Sarah Kanyara

The setting is in 1957 as Maya Angelou leaves California, US, with her son Guy for New York. Here, the singer and dancer joins a world of artistes and writers where her love for writing is reignited.

She also begins to take part in activism, pushing for African Americans' rights, and ends up being a coordinator for Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s movement.

In her fourth autobiography, Angelou, now deceased, takes you through her colourful life as she struggles to raise her teenage son, meeting famous people the likes of Billie Holiday, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

What makes the book more interesting is how she lays bare her tumultuous love life.

Her personal life takes an unexpected turn. She leaves her fiancé a day to the wedding after falling in love with a South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make, who she has only known for a week but describes him as intense and contained.

Fortunately, her son takes to his (Vusumzi) liking, and they can't wait to start a life together and move to Africa. Their first move as a family is to London then to New York a year later, where they live a lavish life. However, Vusumzi forbids her from working, saying her work is to take care of her husband.

The family later moves to Egypt and here, infidelity and financial constraints rock Angelou's marriage, forcing her to look for a job. She is fortunate to get an associate editor’s position with the Arab Observer and thrives as an editor.

But infidelity takes a toll on her marriage and unable to bear it, she parts ways with Vusumzi and moves to Ghana.

Here, she begins a new chapter of living alone after her son joins the University of Ghana and moves to the hostel. Angelou gets a job as an administrative assistant at the university.

The Heart of a Woman is a great read. Angelou is descriptive, humourous and witty as she delves into her love life, heartbreak, raising her son, racial and gender discrimination.

Would I recommend the book? Definitely, yes. It gives the reader an insight into not only the African Americans’ struggle for equality but also the Africans' push for freedom from white rule.