42 pages 1 hour read

Maya Angelou

Mom & Me & Mom

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 2013

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Symbols & Motifs


Abandonment as a motif is key to Maya Angelou and her brother, Bailey’s, childhood trauma. Bailey was slightly older than Angelou at the time of Vivian Baxter’s abandonment—thus, as much as he loves and longs for his mother, he never forgives her. The trauma forever impacts his mental health, as he develops a drug addiction and later attraction to a woman who resembles Vivian. By contrast, Angelou manages to forgive her mother and form an unbreakable bond with her. However, this isn’t to say her own trauma doesn’t affect her. When Angelou and Vivian clash over her marriage to Tosh Angelos, Vivian moves away, and Angelou reexperiences abandonment. At crucial times in her life, Angelou longs for her mother’s presence. Furthermore, her trauma recurs as guilt. When she leaves her son, Guy, to tour Europe, she worries he might feel abandoned. Angelou’s anxiety over reuniting with Guy makes her take a boat because “guilt ma[kes] [her] afraid to fly back” (132).

Art and Liberation

Art in its various forms is key to Angelou’s identity. For her, dance is liberatory; it provides meaning. During her marriage to Tosh, she strives to attend dance classes and feels oppressed when he tries to stop her.