Critical Context (Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)
The Heart of a Woman was not written directly for young adult readers, nor is it as closely related to their personal lives as Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which is often taught in either language arts or social studies classes. Nevertheless, young adult readers will find in The Heart of a Woman a vivid account of the life of Angelou that will give them a personal context for those early years of the American Civil Rights movement studied in history classes. They will be able to broaden their focus to see the interrelationships among all African Americans and Africans struggling for political and economic freedom. They will see people such as the writers James Baldwin, John Killens, Paule Marshall, and Rosa Guy and the entertainers Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Louis Gossett, Jr., Godfrey Cambridge, and James Earl Jones linked with such historical figures as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Ralph Bunche, working together to further the cause of racial freedom.
In addition, students will see, through the life of Angelou, the emerging new image of an African-American woman who is both a warm human being and a wonderfully resourceful person. She has been able to overcome in the “black people’s honorable tradition.”