65 pages 2 hours read

Maya Angelou

The Heart of a Woman

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 1981

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Finding an Authentic Voice

In Chapter 8, as Angelou struggles to choose between Make and Allen, she stares at her reflection in a bathroom mirror. The mirror is small and dusty and, as she tries to decide on the future direction of her life, the reflection remains “vague” (119). Later, after moving to Cairo and seeking employment against her husband’s will, Angelou will remark that “nobody seems to know my name” (224). This sense of personal identity as something elusive can be seen, in part, as a reflection of Angelou’s difficulty in finding her own individual and authentic voice as an author.

As an African American woman writer, Angelou was located at the margins of the white-male-dominated American literary canon. Her use of first-person narrative in her autobiographical works can be seen as an attempt to find an authentic voice in which to document her own experience and that of others like her. Her agenda is at once personal and political, and this is reflected in the shifting focus of The Heart of a Woman, where the narrative focus constantly pans out to broader political events on a national and a global level before focusing back in on Angelou’s emotions and personal relationships.