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Mom & Me & Mom
Cover of Mom & Me & Mom
Mom & Me & Mom
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A moving memoir about the legendary author's relationship with her own mother.
Emma Watson's Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick!

The story of Maya Angelou's extraordinary life has been chronicled in her multiple bestselling autobiographies. But now, at last, the legendary author shares the deepest personal story of her life: her relationship with her mother.
For the first time, Angelou reveals the triumphs and struggles of being the daughter of Vivian Baxter, an indomitable spirit whose petite size belied her larger-than-life presence—a presence absent during much of Angelou's early life. When her marriage began to crumble, Vivian famously sent three-year-old Maya and her older brother away from their California home to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. The subsequent feelings of abandonment stayed with Angelou for years, but their reunion, a decade later, began a story that has never before been told. In Mom & Me & Mom, Angelou dramatizes her years reconciling with the mother she preferred to simply call "Lady," revealing the profound moments that shifted the balance of love and respect between them.
Delving into one of her life's most rich, rewarding, and fraught relationships, Mom & Me & Mom explores the healing and love that evolved between the two women over the course of their lives, the love that fostered Maya Angelou's rise from immeasurable depths to reach impossible heights.
Praise for Mom & Me & Mom
"Mom & Me & Mom is delivered with Angelou's trademark good humor and fierce optimism. If any resentments linger between these lines, if lives are partially revealed without all the bitter details exposed, well, that is part of Angelou's forgiving design. As an account of reconciliation, this little book is just revealing enough, and pretty irresistible."The Washington Post
"Moving . . . a remarkable portrait of two courageous souls."People

"[The] latest, and most potent, of her serial autobiographies . . . [a] tough-minded, tenderhearted addition to Angelou's spectacular canon."Elle
"Mesmerizing . . . Angelou has a way with words that can still dazzle us, and with her mother as a subject, Angelou has a near-perfect muse and mystery woman."Essence
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A moving memoir about the legendary author's relationship with her own mother.
Emma Watson's Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick!

The story of Maya Angelou's extraordinary life has been chronicled in her multiple bestselling autobiographies. But now, at last, the legendary author shares the deepest personal story of her life: her relationship with her mother.
For the first time, Angelou reveals the triumphs and struggles of being the daughter of Vivian Baxter, an indomitable spirit whose petite size belied her larger-than-life presence—a presence absent during much of Angelou's early life. When her marriage began to crumble, Vivian famously sent three-year-old Maya and her older brother away from their California home to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. The subsequent feelings of abandonment stayed with Angelou for years, but their reunion, a decade later, began a story that has never before been told. In Mom & Me & Mom, Angelou dramatizes her years reconciling with the mother she preferred to simply call "Lady," revealing the profound moments that shifted the balance of love and respect between them.
Delving into one of her life's most rich, rewarding, and fraught relationships, Mom & Me & Mom explores the healing and love that evolved between the two women over the course of their lives, the love that fostered Maya Angelou's rise from immeasurable depths to reach impossible heights.
Praise for Mom & Me & Mom
"Mom & Me & Mom is delivered with Angelou's trademark good humor and fierce optimism. If any resentments linger between these lines, if lives are partially revealed without all the bitter details exposed, well, that is part of Angelou's forgiving design. As an account of reconciliation, this little book is just revealing enough, and pretty irresistible."The Washington Post
"Moving . . . a remarkable portrait of two courageous souls."People

"[The] latest, and most potent, of her serial autobiographies . . . [a] tough-minded, tenderhearted addition to Angelou's spectacular canon."Elle
"Mesmerizing . . . Angelou has a way with words that can still dazzle us, and with her mother as a subject, Angelou has a near-perfect muse and mystery woman."Essence
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  • Chapter One

    The first decade of the twentieth century was not a great time to be born black and poor and female in St. Louis, Missouri, but Vivian Baxter was born black and poor, to black and poor parents. Later she would grow up and be called beautiful. As a grown woman she would be known as the butter-colored lady with the blowback hair.

    Her father, a Trinidadian with a heavy Caribbean accent, had jumped from a banana boat in Tampa, Florida, and evaded immigration agents successfully all his life. He spoke often and loudly with pride at being an American citizen. No one explained to him that simply wanting to be a citizen was not enough to make him one.

    Contrasting with her father's dark chocolate complexion, her mother was light-colored enough to pass for white. She was called an octoroon, meaning that she had one-eighth Negro blood. Her hair was long and straight. At the kitchen table, she amused her children by whirling her braids like ropes and then later sitting on them.

    Although Vivian's mother's people were Irish, she had been raised by German adoptive parents, and she spoke with a decided German accent.

    Vivian was the firstborn of the Baxter children. Her sister Leah was next, followed by brothers Tootie, Cladwell, Tommy, and Billy.

    As they grew, their father made violence a part of their inheritance. He said often, "If you get in jail for theft or burglary, I will let you rot. But if you are charged with fighting, I will sell your mother to get your bail."

    The family became known as the "Bad Baxters." If someone angered any of them, they would track the offender to his street or to his saloon. The brothers (armed) would enter the bar. They would station themselves at the door, at the ends of the bar, and at the toilets. Uncle Cladwell would grab a wooden chair and break it, handing Vivian a piece of the chair.

    He would say, "Vivian, go kick that bastard's ass."

    Vivian would ask, "Which one?"

    Then she would take the wooden weapon and use it to beat the offender.

    When her brothers said, "That's enough," the Baxter gang would gather their violence and quit the scene, leaving their mean reputation in the air. At home they told their fighting stories often and with great relish.

    Grandmother Baxter played piano in the Baptist church and she liked to hear her children sing spiritual gospel songs. She would fill a cooler with Budweiser and stack bricks of ice cream in the refrigerator.

    The same rough Baxter men led by their fierce older sister would harmonize in the kitchen on "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross":

    There a precious fountain

    Free to all, a healing stream,

    Flows from Calvary's mountain.

    The Baxters were proud of their ability to sing. Uncle Tommy and Uncle Tootie had bass voices; Uncle Cladwell, Uncle Ira, and Uncle Billy were tenors; Vivian sang alto; and Aunt Leah sang a high soprano (the family said she also had a sweet tremolo). Many years later, I heard them often, when my father, Bailey Johnson Sr., took me and my brother, called Junior, to stay with the Baxters in St. Louis. They were proud to be loud and on key. Neighbors often dropped in and joined the songfest, each trying to sing loudest.

    Vivian's father always wanted to hear about the rough games his sons played. He would listen eagerly, but if their games ended without a fight or at least a scuffle, he would blow air through his teeth and say, "That's little boys' play. Don't waste my time with silly tales."

    Then he would tell Vivian, "Bibbi, these boys are too big to play little girls' games. Don't let them grow up to be women."

    Vivian took his instruction seriously. She promised...

About the Author-
  • Maya Angelou was raised in Stamps, Arkansas. In addition to her bestselling autobiographies, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The Heart of a Woman, she wrote numerous volumes of poetry, among them Phenomenal Woman, And Still I Rise, On the Pulse of Morning, and Mother. Maya Angelou died in 2014.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 21, 2013
    Written with her customary eloquence, Angelou’s latest focuses on her relationship with her mother, the fierce, beautiful, charismatic, and determined Vivian Baxter—dubbed “Lady” by the 13-year-old Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) upon their reunion. Amid the breakdown in her marriage, Baxter had sent Angelou and her brother, Bailey, to live with their paternal grandmother in Arkansas when they were toddlers. But as Bailey grew older, their grandmother sent them to live with their mother in California. Though initially dubious, Angelou soon found a fierce supporter and life teacher in Baxter. Over her lifetime, Baxter was a boarding house owner, a gambler, a registered nurse, a pioneering sailor, and head of Stockton Black Women for Humanity; wise and generous, she wasn’t opposed to threats and violence, when necessary. There are difficult times (including a violent, disturbing episode between Angelou and a jealous boyfriend), as well as triumphs, such as Angelou’s job as the first African-American female streetcar conductor, obtained thanks to Baxter’s encouragement. The book follows in the episodic style of Angelou’s earlier volumes of autobiography, pulling the reader along effortlessly. The lessons and the love presented here will speak to those trying to make their way in the world. B&w photos. Agent: Helen Brann, the Helen Brann Agency.

  • Kirkus

    February 15, 2013
    Angelou (Letters to My Daughter, 2008, etc.) has given us the opportunity to read much of her life, but here she unveils her relationship with her mother for the first time. True to her style, the writing cuts to the chase with compression and simplicity, and there in the background is a calypso smoothness, flurries and showers of musicality between the moments of wickedness. And wickedness abounds, for Angelou had a knack for picking bad men. But the pivot of the book is her mother--first called lady, then mother and finally mom--who sent Angelou and her brother to live with their grandmother when Angelou was 3. By the time her older brother was capable of getting into serious trouble as an independent-minded black man in the American South, they were shipped back to their mother, who was as ready as she would ever be. She had been around, ran a few gambling houses and picked up plenty of worldly wisdom, which she dispensed to Angelou: "Power and determination...[w]ith those two things, you can go anywhere and everywhere"; "If you don't protect yourself, you look like a fool asking somebody else to protect you." Though readers may not sense that her mother was not the most reliable force in her life, Angelou knew enough to grab the most from what she had: "[S]he was there with me. She had my back, supported me. This is the role of the mother....She stands between the known and the unknown." Strung through the narrative are intense episodes in Angelou's personal progress, from those disappointing-to-terrifying boyfriends, a seriously ugly meeting with her father and stepmother, her days as a prostitute and her incandescent relationships with her brother and her son. A tightly strung, finely tuned memoir about life with her mother.

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2013

    Those who have read Angelou's previous memoirs, including the classic I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, will be familiar with some of the stories captured in this latest creation. Still, the author's focus here is on her mother, Vivian Baxter, and that focus makes this a distinct addition to Angelou's autobiographical writings. When Angelou was three her parents separated and sent both Maya and her brother to live with their grandmother. When Angelou was reunited with her mother ten years later, the initial relationship was difficult, though eventually they formed a strong bond. Here Angelou writes about critical episodes from her life while giving attention to her mother's positive influence at various crossroads. The author reveals Baxter's major contributions to her phenomenal career. This memoir is also a beautiful tribute to Baxter's independent, vibrant, and courageous spirit. VERDICT Because of Angelou's popularity and her approachable writing, this book will have wide appeal.--Stacy Russo, Santa Ana Coll. Lib., CA

    Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    February 15, 2013
    Angelou's highly acclaimed autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), chronicles her growing up in Stamps, Arkansas, with her paternal grandmother and the trauma that resulted from a visit to her mother's family. In this loving recollection of a complicated relationship, Angelou for the first time details the mother-daughter journey to reconciliation and unwavering connection and support. After their reunion in San Francisco, angry and resentful at what she viewed as the abandonment of her and her brother, Angelou took years to warm to her mother, Vivian Baxter, calling her Lady rather than Mother. But Baxter's unconditional acceptance and appreciation of her daughter, through unwed motherhood, a failed marriage, and career ups and downs, won Angelou's love and respect. Angelou vividly portrays a spirited woman, unbowed by the limitations of race and sex, who ran a boardinghouse and gambling house and taught her daughter the determination, street smarts, and survival skills that have helped Angelou carve a space for her identity and formidable talents. Photos enhance this remarkable and deeply revealing chronicle of love and healing. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The celebrated author gives the backstory on I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) in this revealing look at her relationship with her mother, which is sure to receive a tsunami's worth of publicity.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)

  • The Washington Post Praise for Mom & Me & Mom

    "Mom & Me & Mom is delivered with Angelou's trademark good humor and fierce optimism. If any resentments linger between these lines, if lives are partially revealed without all the bitter details exposed, well, that is part of Angelou's forgiving design. As an account of reconciliation, this little book is just revealing enough, and pretty irresistible."
  • People "Moving . . . a remarkable portrait of two courageous souls."
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