Curator Reviews

Marcus Samuelsson

It was hard to choose which Maya Angelou work I wanted to include in this list, but I ultimately decided I wanted the one that her most definitive. This is the book that made her a voice to be heard. I was also tempted to include her book of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie, for which she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

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Janet Mock

This was the first autobiography that meant everything to me as a young survivor struggling to find voice and meaning through the overbearing darkness. Angelou did what great writers of memoir do; she let me know that I was not alone because someone else had been there and made it out to tell the truth.

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Christiane Amanpour

A deeply personal story of the brutalization of a whole people in the world’s most important democracy. This is the first Angelou book that I read, when I was much younger, and to this day I am unable to compute the breathtaking immorality of her (people’s) circumstances. I still cannot even imagine enduring and surviving that kind of pain and violence and injustice. It is as relevant and important today as ever.

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1969 Book Club

This evocative first volume of Angelou’s six books of autobiography is a powerful testament to a young girl’s survival in the American south during the Depression Era, as well as a paean to the power of books to rescue us from some of the depravations of life. Terrorized by racism, traumatized by rape, Angelou gives up speaking until books help to unlock her voice again.

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