Mom & Me & Mom

February 23, 2017
Mom & Me & Mom Book Cover Mom & Me & Mom
Maya Angelou's Autobiographies, #7
Maya Angelou
Memoir
Random House
April 2nd, 2013
Audiobook
201
Library
January 1st, 2013

The story of Maya Angelou’s extraordinary life has been chronicled in her multiple bestselling autobiographies. But now, at last, the legendary author shares the deepest personal story of her life: her relationship with her mother.

For the first time, Angelou reveals the triumphs and struggles of being the daughter of Vivian Baxter, an indomitable spirit whose petite size belied her larger-than-life presence—a presence absent during much of Angelou’s early life. When her marriage began to crumble, Vivian famously sent three-year-old Maya and her older brother away from their California home to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. The subsequent feelings of abandonment stayed with Angelou for years, but their reunion, a decade later, began a story that has never before been told. In Mom & Me & Mom, Angelou dramatizes her years reconciling with the mother she preferred to simply call “Lady,” revealing the profound moments that shifted the balance of love and respect between them.

Delving into one of her life’s most rich, rewarding, and fraught relationships, Mom & Me & Mom explores the healing and love that evolved between the two women over the course of their lives, the love that fostered Maya Angelou’s rise from immeasurable depths to reach impossible heights.

(via Goodreads)

 

I am a bit embarrassed to say this is the first Maya Angelou book I have ever read. I am so thankful to be introduced to her works via Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf book club. This memoir is moving, powerful, and heartbreaking— Maya Angelou writes beautifully, and I loved everything about this book.

Mom & Me & Mom is Maya Angelou’s 7th and final autobiography. For the first time in her books, Angelou addresses the relationship she had with her biological mother, Vivian Baxter. Abandoned by her mother prior to the age of 13, Angelou’s relationship to Baxter will obviously be complex. I wasn’t expecting a full transition from resentment and distrust to unconditional love and acceptance between both women through these pages. But it happened. And it was gorgeous.

I adore the exploration of mother/daughter relationships. Honestly, I don’t feel like they are explored enough in literature; fiction or non-fiction. Listening to Angelou describe the complex emotions she felt and dissect them in such an open way was powerful. I felt like I was in a room with her discussing these situations face to face. It felt like a confession. Angelou’s honesty is refreshing and startling. Her stories are direct and to the point. Reading these pages, I felt as though I was reading a love story rather than a memoir.

Love heals. Heals and liberates. I use the word love not meaning sentimentality, but a condition so strong that it may be that which holds the stars in their heavenly positions and that which causes the blood to flow orderly in our veins.

Vivian Baxter the woman is quite formidable. She is a woman who knows herself completely. Unwavering in her beliefs, she refused to step down to any situation. When Angelou was reunited with her mother at age twelve, she was resistant and angry. Angelou only called her mother “Lady”. As the years passed, Angelou learned why her mother had abandoned her and began to warm to her woman. When Angelou became pregnant at age seventeen and wanted to keep the child, Baxter supported her. Helping her daughter through the birth, Angelou transitioned to calling Baxter “Mother” and eventually even “Mom”. While, Baxter would never become a maternal figure in the traditional sense, but eventually the bond these two women would share would be unbreakable.

The rest of the memoir provides a series of anecdotes about how Baxter and Angelou’s relationship deepened as they both were mothers. Their relationship was arduous, yet highly rewarding. Both women have plenty of fight, determination, and hope. Watching them go through their life struggles, it’s obvious to the outside observer that both women needed each other. It’s certain that Angelou wouldn’t be where she is today without Baxter. And it is likely true of the opposite as well.

My mother’s gifts of courage to me were both large and small. The latter are woven so subtly into the fabric of my psyche that I can hardly distinguish where she stops and I begin.

Overall, the biggest criticism of Mom & Me & Mom I have read is that many of these stories have been told before in her previous autobiographies. Having never read other Angelou books, I cannot speak to this. However, I imagine that these stories have a different twist on them now that we are focusing on her relationship with Vivian Baxter, rather than Angelou herself. After all, can you imagine having enough interesting life stories to fill 7 fill length books? I know I am certainly not that interesting. But, who is to say, really? What I do know is that I believe Baxter passed on without Angelou truly understanding everything her mother had to offer— and that’s saying something.

A simply written autobiography, Mom & Me & Mom is a touching and powerful memoir; an emotional minefield Angelou traverses with grace. I strongly recommend this to lovers of memoirs, mother/daughter relationships, and Maya Angelou’s works.


What do you think?

  • Have you read any of Maya Angelou’s autobiographies? Which ones? Did you enjoy them?
  • Do you believe mother/daughter relationships are underexplored in literature? Why or why not?
  • What sort of relationship do you have with your mother? Why do you believe it is like that?

15 Comments

  • Ann Marie February 23, 2017 at 10:26 am

    I’ve still not read any of Maya Angelou’s books. I’m sure I’m missing out. Thanks for reminding me that I need to make an effort to read more books that have been on my TBR for years. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the new releases…

    • Jackie B February 23, 2017 at 4:39 pm

      You are so right. I feel like my TBR just grows and grows and grows– some books have been on there for over 5 years now! Yikes. I’m fairly neglectful, I guess. But those new releases are just so shiny… and everyone is talking about them! I want to be involved. 🙂

      I hope that when you get to Angelou’s works you really enjoy them. I learned a lot from this memoir. I will certainly continue to read the others.

  • Kourtni @ Kourtni Reads February 23, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    I still haven’t read anything by Maya Angelou. I really should change that.

    • Jackie B February 23, 2017 at 4:40 pm

      It was definitely enlightening reading this book! I am certainly intrigued and will read more of her works. I am surprised at how powerful her words are; this book really evoked some emotion from me. I hope that you find her works enjoyable when you get to them!

  • Jasmine February 23, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    Hey, you are one step ahead of me because I haven’t read any of Maya Angelou’s books yet. I have only read very few memoirs but I do love to read them when there’s time. There’s so much info to get out of reading memoirs. It’s even way better than self-help books because these authors are sharing their experiences, successes and failures and what they have learned throughout their life. I’m glad to see you review an autobiography 🙂 Love it!

    • Jackie B February 23, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      Agreed! Memoirs are a lot of fun because they have all the stories associated with their lessons learned. The problem with self-help books is that often the author doesn’t communicate how to really apply the information to real life. And/Or they don’t include any stories to show these tips in action.

      Seven memoirs are quite a few, but I hope to make some progress through her works this year. Angelou’s writing style really touches me.

  • koolkosherkitchen February 23, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Dear Jackie, you absolutely have to read “I Know for Whom the Caged Bird Sings”! She was an awesome, incredible person in every way, and an incredible writer as well.

    • Jackie B February 26, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation, Dolly! I’ve added it to my To Read list. I look forward to reading more of Maya Angelou’s works!

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom February 26, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Lovely review Jackie! Like you before reading this book, I’ve never read a MA book. The shame is real. I really want to read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings… I’m assuming you will attempt some of her other works? Any plans?

    • Jackie B February 26, 2017 at 9:48 pm

      Thanks, Amanda! I am *definitely* planning on reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings this year. I hope to read all her autobiographies over the next year or so, if I can. Only 6 more to go. 😉 If you are interested in a reading buddy, I’d definitely love to collaborate with you on a post. 🙂

  • AvalinahsBooks February 27, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    That sounds very interesting. I haven’t read any of her books yet! Which is why I think I should first read one 🙂 but then, it also makes me really curious about how they managed to become so close with that history. Lovely review 🙂 thanks for sharing.

    • Jackie B February 28, 2017 at 3:06 pm

      This is the final book in her autobiography series. The first book is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and is what made her a famous author. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan on trying for this year! I hope that you can get to one of these many books and that you enjoy them!

  • Grab the Lapels March 9, 2017 at 10:35 am

    If you’re looking for more stories about mother-daughter relationships, you may want to check out Bonnie Jo Campbell’s book Mothers, Tell Your Daughters. I own it, but I haven’t read it yet. I’ve read a novel of Campbell’s and it was fantastic, so I’m excited to get her newest work.

    • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 11:23 am

      Thanks for the recommendation! This is *exactly* the type of book I’m looking for. A theme I am fascinated in, focusing on rural America (which I need to learn more about, #CityGirl), in short story format?! Yes, please! I’ve been really into short stories lately. I think a good short story is just masterful. I hope that we both enjoy Mothers, Tell Your Daughters when we get to it.

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