It’s not that I make a point of being unconventional. The truth is, sometimes things just happen.
Like me reading Maya Angelou’s autobiography, starting from the 3rd volume.
Everybody around me, a choir of voices, was telling me to read ‘I know why the caged bird sings’ (which makes sense, it being the 1st book of the series), but then this one popped into my hands. I started reading and I couldn’t stop.
The book I am talking about is ‘Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting Merry Like Christmas’.
As a matter of fact, this book is a first in its own ways.
The autobiography itself represents the first time an African-American woman publicly discusses her personal life. Maya Angelou is also one of the first to use herself as central character.
As for this in particular, well, it’s the 3rd. Never before an African-American woman had dared to expand her autobiography to a third book (let alone a fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh, like Maya Angelou actually did).
The story covers the years between 1949 to 1955, when Maya Angelou is in her early 20s, trying to raise her son, figuring out racial stereotypes, and making her way into the show business.
There are lots of things that got to me about this book, from the relationship with her son to the racial prejudices she experiences, both towards white and black people. From the tale of her experience touring Europe with the opera ‘Porgy and Bess’ to her studying to learn the language of every single country she visits.
I found Maya Angelou the most honest teller, to the point that sometimes I lifted my eyes up from the book and marvel at the courage it must have taken to put those experiences and those thoughts onto paper, while being true to herself and to others.
That’s what makes the book special. That’s what kept me reading the book, despite it being the third chapter of her story.
I still don’t know why the caged bird sings, but now that I have met Miss Calypso, I got an idea about what it means to sing and swing and get merry like Christmas*.
For more info about the book, visit its Goodreads page.
*Truth be told: the title comes from the rent parties of the 1920s and 1930s, where people would pay a small entry fee to the host and then eat and drink the all weekend. Working class people normally went to these parties, because they were unable to afford to go to Harlem’s more expensive clubs.