Gather Together in My Name Critical Context - Essay

Maya Angelou

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Gather Together in My Name is more limited in scope than Angelou’s first work of autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1971). While the earlier volume covers the author’s first sixteen years, this book focuses on only three years of the author’s life. Yet Angelou is able to fashion the story of those three years into an inspirational tale worth sharing. The book has no clear conclusion, being only one volume in a multipart autobiographical series, and readers must turn to the following volumes to continue the story of Angelou’s life. Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas was published in 1976; it was followed by The Heart of a Woman (1981) and All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986).

As a strong and powerful voice in the tradition of African-American women’s autobiographical writing, Angelou commands a central position. The book should be popular with a young adult audience because Angelou speaks truthfully and directly about her own experiences, both positive and negative, as a young adult. The book’s subject matter, which touches on teenage pregnancy, prostitution, homosexuality, crime, gambling, and drugs, is mature but should be suitable for readers in their late teens. Upon publication, Gather Together in My Name was warmly praised and highly recommended for inclusion in high-school, public, and college libraries.