The Heart of a Woman

The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou

This is the fourth autobiography she has written and the second I have read (I started with “I know why the caged birds sing”). She tells the story of her son growing up. She moved around the US and then to Egypt with her husband, a South African freedom fighter, later on leaving for Ghana where her son went to university.

This book tells the story of a strong woman who always found her path. People threw many obstacles in her way, yet she always endured. She always found a job, she always found the right thing to say.

There are many impressive moments but this one stuck out to me: Her husband didn’t want her to work. But she needed something to do, she needed to take care of herself. She asked around and got a job as a journalist. When her husband confronted her, he was furious but she kept the job through the clever arguing of a friend.  Maya Angelou was an independent soul. She felt relieved, free, when her son left for college. Although she had a strong connection to him, a deep love, she knew when to let him go.

The book is beautifully crafted and I adore her stories. They are universal. The struggle of a single mum in a society that doesn’t value single women. I read an article that women today can be anything: Divorced, lesbians, childless, … but never single.

You can be anything, but single

Women are asked about their relationships; men about their careers. We cling to the standards and values of the last centuries, we engrave them in our lives. “I was already married at your age” – What is that supposed to mean? Times have changed. Women today don’t want to have relationships anymore just for the sake of them.

The relationship of a woman is seen as the finest thing she can achieve. In reality that doesn’t seem true because

… you can lose your job if you have children, you do not get adequate payment for the time off you need to birth them, your children are not cared for when you want to go to work, and you have to fear for your health and life

… young girls are married off to much older men by their parents

… women suffer from domestic violence and can’t even talk about that in public (men are also subject to violence but not to the same extent)

… lesbians cannot get married or adopt children in many countries

Our worth is not defined by the relationships we are in. A woman without a man is still a woman. And a woman without a woman is also still a woman.

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