Gather Together in My Name is the second volume in Maya Angelou’s autobiography. In this volume, Angelou reveals her struggles as a young adult at a turning point racial relations in the early twentieth century. As a young woman with a baby to raise, Angelou finds herself struggling to find steady pay to feed herself and her son. She goes through a lot of menial jobs, mostly as a cook, but each time she leaves for various reasons. At one point, she finds herself as a madam to a whorehouse. When her time in California comes to an abrupt end after taking revenge on the women in her house, she moves back home to her grandmother’s house to recuperate and make a better life. She then signs up for the army only to be told that she went to a “communist” school and therefore was getting rejected from the military life before it even began. A dancer, then a prostitute, and then a cook again, Angelou has seen it all.
Angelou’s writing style is simple and easy to read, though her life story is not. There were several times when I felt bad for her because life hadn’t dealt her a good hand. But there were also times when I just sighed with exasperation because some of the choices she made were her fault. In spite of what she had to face, there were some things in which she could’ve done differently.
I love her writing though because it made me feel like I was sitting in the room with her and she was talking to me as if we were friends. Heavy topics and hard lives are hard to write about without coming across as “pity me” or even as holier than thou in the sense of “Look what I overcame, there’s no excuse as to why you can’t.”
Overall, I wasn’t thrilled with the book. Maybe it’s because it’s the second book slump, but I can’t say I like someone’s book when it’s about their own life. Hard to say, no?