65 pages 2 hours read

Maya Angelou

The Heart of a Woman

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 1981

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Chapters 1-4Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary

Angelou and Guy stay in the Westlake district for another year and a half. During this time, Angelou moves from writing song lyrics to short stories. She shows her work to her friend, the author John Killens, and he encourages her to pursue her ambitions in New York and join the Harlem Writers Guild. Angelou finds the idea attractive, in part because of her increasing worry about her rebellious teenage son.

Angelou contacts her mother to discuss her plans. Her mother insists on meeting in a hotel in the highly segregated town of Fresno, despite her daughter’s desire to avoid “trouble.” Mother and daughter are met with stunned silence in the lobby of the hotel. Angelou is extremely nervous while her mother handles the situation with aloof composure. Later, Angelou’s mother says she should never show fear because people will sense and take advantage of it. She acknowledges that the threat crowds of white people pose and shows her daughter that she has a pistol hidden in her handbag. She has news of her own: She will be going to sea as a merchant marine. She describes it primarily as an act of defiance, “because they told me Negro women couldn’t get into the Union” (28).