A Song Flung Up to Heaven – Maya Angelou
February 16, 2010 § 8 Comments
I asked for the music, then invited it to enter my body and find the broken and sore places and restore them. That it would blow through my mind and dispel the fogs. I let the music move me around the dance floor.
A Song Flung Up to Heaven is the sixth and final book in Maya Angelou’s series of memoirs, starting, of course, with the very well-known I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing. I came across a review of that first book at Another Cookie Crumbles not too long ago, and because she liked the book so much, I decided to pick this one up earlier than I had planned. It did not disappoint.
The book starts at the point where Angelou is just now leaving Ghana and on her way back to the States, where she is to help Malcolm X in his campaign. She decides that she wants to go see her mother and brother before taking on the task proper, but by page 26, Malcolm X is shot dead. The book ends with another death, this time the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., just as as she is offered a position to help in his campaign. It is while coming to terms with King’s death that she is given the chance to write a memoir, a full circle back to how I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing started.
Having just only recently read another memoir by another strong woman character (Isabel Allende’s The Sum of Our Days), I couldn’t help but compare their writing styles and their voices. While I quite enjoyed Allende’s book, I felt more drawn to Angelou. I’m not quite sure why, because the book was written like as if Angelou was detached from that part of her life, like as if we’re just both watching it happen. But at certain points, it almost felt like I was being dragged along with her, emotions erupting with no former indication. The detachment worked well to accentuate the bursts, like calm before and after the storm.
As can be deduced from where the book starts and ends, Angelou was very much involved with fighting for equality for African-Americans, and in this book, she makes no apologies for it. She doesn’t hide her thoughts; she offers them straight to you.
The Africa-American leaves the womb with the burden of her color and a race memory chockablock with horrific folk tales. Frequently there are songs, toe-tapping, finger-popping, hand-slapping, dancing songs that say, in effect, “I’m laughing to keep from crying.” Gospel, blues, and love songs often suggest that birthing is hard, dying is difficult and there isn’t much ease in between.
In this rather short book, Angelou also manages to tell us what she thinks are problems that women, in particular black women, are facing. She talks to them about their lives and their worries, and relates it back to us.
The women ranged from college graduates to those who would find it challenging to read the daily newspaper, yet the burdens of their conversations were the same.
Why is education so useless in helping them make a better life for themselves, despite what they were told? Why are women constantly on the receiving end of violence when their men lose their jobs, dignity or power? Why are women expected to do everything for nothing? Why are women expected to take on all their burdens without any complaint?
In this book, Maya Angelou tells you it’s okay to be emotional, to break down and cry, when things don’t go well. But she also tells you that after having that good cry, you must wipe your tears dry, stand up, and face another day with your head held high. And the best part is, she tells you all this without being preachy about it.