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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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4.2 out of 5
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All Book Reviews

  • Hope it gets better

    Very hard to listen to and hard to follow the narrative. The reader is the author and I find that a better choice could have been made in this regard. Have to play it at 1.25x speed to be somewhat better for listening. I gave 3 stars, since I am still at the beginning of the book, I hope it will get better as I advance through it. I feel that I need to push myself to listen to it and this is not a good sign for me. I need a book to captivate me from the beginning or it becomes a chore. I almost wish I could exchange my credit for another audiobook.

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  • To find peace in understanding.

    Very good quality information of experience growing up during diverse times.

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  • Inspiring autobiography, beautifully narrated

    This book is a deserved classic of American literature, and has been on my to-read list for so long. I finally bought an audible version and listened to it. The book would probably be marvellous in any format, but I thought that it was a particular treat to listen to Maya Angelou reading out the text herself. It made the emotional scenes that much more poignant, the racism more immediate and more upsetting, the sorrow and happiness, and the joy in learning more vibrant and real. This was an exceptional life, narrated by the person who owned it. Maya Angelou suffered many tribulations in her childhood: rape, irresponsible parents – and the ever-present bane of racism. But, she always bounced back. Her resilience was in great part due to her grandmother who brought her up for most of her childhood in the absence of her parents. She was a very strong woman who owned her own store, and was leading light in the black community. Maya’s other rock was her brother Bailey. For me, one of the most vivid scenes was a very atmospheric section about a gospel revival meeting in a tent, bringing together all the churches and people from around the area. Maya Angelou sings and relays the words of the preachers and congregation, bringing the whole scene to life – you could almost imagine being there, seeing it all unfold. The preacher talks about charity: “‘Charity is not puffed up. … Charity don’t go round saying, ‘I give you food and I give you clothes and by rights you ought to thank me. … Charity don’t say because I give you a job, you got to bend your knee to me. … It don’t say because I pays you what you do you got to call me master. It don’t ask me to humble myself, and belittle myself – that ain’t what charity is.’ America’s historic bowers and scrapers shifted easily and happily in the makeshift church, reassured that although they might be the lowest of the low, they were at least not uncharitable. Jesus was going to separate the sheep – them, from the goats – the white folk. … The emotional release was contagious. Little screams burst around the room, like fourth of July firecrackers. The minister’s voice was a pendulum – swinging left and down and right and down and …” Though I doubt it was the preacher’s intent, this sermon made me think of the Karl Marx quote: ‘Religion is the opiate of the masses’. He seemed to be saying that because you are more truly charitable than your white contemporaries, you will get your reward in heaven – meanwhile on earth, just put up with the racism and fake charity. Another memorable scene was when the entire community gathered around the radio in the store to listen to a boxing fight between the black Joe Lewis and a white boxer. “Those who lived too far away had made arrangements to stay in town. It wouldn’t do for a black man and his family to be caught on the lonely country road on a night when Joe Lewis had proved that we were the strongest people in the world” Maya Angelou’s story is, at times, appalling, and made me very angry – but it is at the same time, very inspiring to see how she makes her way forward. I recommend this book to all – and especially the superb audio version narrated by the author.

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