Mom & Me & Mom is the final book that Maya Angelou has written about her life, a series of seven autobiographies which started with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This one is slightly different as it does not focus on a particular period but chronicles Angelou’s relationship with her mother, Vivian Baxter. Deciding that she could not look after two small children, Vivian packed Maya and her brother Bailey off to live with their paternal grandmother (Momma) in Stamps, Arkansas when they were tiny. Apart from a brief stay in St Louis, aged eight, which resulted in Maya’s rape by her mother’s current boyfriend, the children had very little to do with Vivian during their childhood until as teenagers Momma sent them to live with her in California. At first the relationship was strained, but Maya and Vivian (or Lady, as Maya named her) came to respect and love each other very deeply providing each other with vital support over the course of their amazingly varied lives.
This book had passed me by and I wouldn’t have considered it really except for a recommendation from Claire who writes at Word by Word blog. I’m going to be honest and say although I found the specific focus on Angelou’s relationship with her mother interesting, I was a little disappointed by it. Having read the first five memoirs as a teenager and re-read IKWTCBS again a few weeks ago (review here), I was already familiar with most of the events referred to in Mom & Me & Mom and I don’t really think a lot more was added in this retelling. Moreover, although I can’t remember the style in which Angelou’s subsequent books were written, IKWTCBS is so beautifully written, with such poetry and vibrancy, I felt this one was a little flat. Angelou’s admiration for her mother is clearly evident and is powerfully expressed, and the reader can not fail to be impressed by her, although I do feel she gets off a little lightly here for abandoning her children at such a young age and beating Maya badly for staying out too late one night.