Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas Critical Essays

Maya Angelou


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, Angelou uses language both as a poet and as a journalist. She is a very straightforward narrator whose memory is both vivid and chronological, but her commentary on her own life can be profound. The author chooses to emphasize a variety of social issues and institutions: racism, gender roles, interracial marriages, body image problems, religion, divorce (including child care and alimony), wife abuse, violence, and war.

Racism is perhaps the most poignant issue in Angelou’s autobiography and seems to color every event. From the beginning of the narrative, the author describes her problems securing and maintaining employment. She was shocked when a white woman at a record store wanted to hire her, as her previous jobs were oriented toward domestic service. Later, when Angelou was the only African-American woman working in a strip joint, the white women turned on her, accusing her of sleeping with clients when Angelou’s tips were higher than theirs.

Prior to her wedding to Tosh, which went against her mother’s wishes, Angelou was in turmoil about marrying a white man. She tried to persuade herself that she was not betraying her race, as Tosh grew up in a Greek neighborhood and was not a typical white American. Yet when Clyde told her that he wanted to grow up to have straight hair like Tosh, Angelou felt a deep sense of shame in her choice. When her marriage finally dissolved, Clyde was afraid that the relationship which he shared with his mother would dissolve as well. As Angelou writes about...

(The entire section is 651 words.)