The Essential Angelou | EW.com

Books

The Essential Angelou

Her 1969 memoir, ''I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,'' is a classic of contemporary literature (and a staple of high school English classes), but these less heralded works are also worth searching out

Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie (1971)
Angelou’s first volume of poetry tackles the tough topics head-on: race, class, poverty, skin color, relationships, addiction. The book is split into two sections — the first deals with love, the second with the African-American experience.

The Heart of a Woman (1981)
This memoir — the fourth of seven — brims with the hustle and clang of late-’50s and early-’60s New York City, where Angelou scraped together a living by singing, acting, and dancing — all the while becoming increasingly immersed in activism and growing ever more interested in writing.

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986)
When she lived in Ghana in the 1960s, Angelou yearned to be seen as a returning daughter — but as she recounts in her fifth memoir, she discovered some painful truths about identity and belonging, about her African self versus her African-American self.

Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now (1993)
This essay collection — spilling over with personal experiences and snippets of wisdom — is quintessential Angelou, more in performance mode than in writer mode. Her vivid personality leaps off the page as she infuses her readers with pride, strength, and hope.