Singing the Black Mother: Maya Angelou and Autobiographical ContinuityAuthor(s): Mary Jane LuptonSource: Black American Literature Forum,Vol. 24, No. 2, 20th-Century Autobiography(Summer, 1990), pp. 257-276Published by: African American Review (St. Louis University)Stable URL: Accessed: 10-07-2019 01:00 UTCJSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a widerange of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity andfacilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available atAfrican American Review (St. Louis University)is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize,preserve and extend access to Black American Literature ForumThis content downloaded from 220.127.116.11 on Wed, 10 Jul 2019 01:00:28 UTCAll use subject to
Singing the Black Mother: Maya Angelou andAutobiographical ContinuityMary Jane LuptonNow my problem I have is I love life, I love living life and I love the art of living,so I try to live my life as a poetic adventure, everything I do from the way Ikeep my house, cook, make my husband happy, or welcome my friends, raisemy son; everything is part of a large canvas I am creating, I am living beneath.(Chrisman interview 46)This energetic statement from a 1977 interview with MayaAngelou merely hints at the variety of roles and experiences whichsweep through what is presently her five-volume autobiographicalseries: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), Gather Togetherin My Name (1974), Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry LikeChristmas (1976), The Heart of a Woman (1981), and All God'sChildren Need Traveling Shoes (1986).1 It is fitting that Angelou,so adept at metaphor, should compare her "poetic adventure" tothe act of painting: ". . . everything is part of a large canvas I amcreating, I am living beneath." Like an unfinished painting, theautobiographical series is an ongoing creation, in a form that rejectsthe finality of a restricting frame. Its continuity is achieved throughcharacters who enter the picture, leave, and reappear, and throughcertain interlaced themes-self-acceptance, race, men, work,separation, sexuality, motherhood. All the while Angelou lives"beneath," recording the minutest of details in a constantly shiftingenvironment and giving attention to the "mundane, thoughessential, ordinary moments of life" (O'Neale 34).I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the first and most highlypraised volume in the series. It begins with the humiliations ofchildhood and ends with the birth of a child. At its publication,Mary Jane Lupton is a member of the English faculty at Morgan StateUniversity.