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Book Review: All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou


     I just realized that I'm reading Maya Angelou's autobiographies WAY out of order.  I read the first one, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, last summer, and this summer I read the fifth one.  I am not reading them out of order on purpose.  I happened upon both books by chance (I found Traveling Shoes at a secondhand bookstore in Cincinnati) and bought them with no knowledge of the series' sequence.  Luckily, I was able to enjoy this book despite my ignorance.
     This book was most interesting for its exploration of the yearning of some African-Americans to return to Africa in the 60s'.  Over the course of the book, Angelou creates a life in Ghana and struggles with her suspicion that slavery has left African-Americans without a home country: they are oppressed in the United States and out of place in Africa.  She desperately wants to feel at home in Ghana, but because of the centuries of separation and abuse that her ancestors endured, Ghanaian culture does not feel like her own.
     I was fascinated and moved by the serious subject matter of this book, but I enjoyed it for other reasons as well.  The interactions of the American expats (the "Revolutionist Returnees") in Ghana are often darkly funny, Angelou's relationship with the Malian cattle baron Sheikhali is spicy and symbolic, her reaction to her son's desire for autonomy is honest, and her description of Malcolm X's visit to Ghana is exciting and warm.  
     Apart from a few instances of lazy/easy writing (I know, I know, I'm blaspheming!), I loved this book.

     - Carly

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