Mom & Me & Mom

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Maya Angelou’s biographical bits are worth hoovering up in whatever small increments they come in. This book is devoted to remembrance of her mother, Vivian Baxter, Lady B, with whom Maya went to live when she was 13 after being raised by her paternal grandmother in Arkansas. Maya and brother Bailey fled the south for the freedom of California and finished growing up there. The story is recounted again here about becoming the first black woman to run the street cars, as a “conductress,” a job she gets out of sheer persistence and stubbornness of sitting in the office for two weeks waiting. She talks about the pickle factory at the corner of Fillmore and Fulton Street in San Francisco, her mother’s house somewhere on Fulton in the predominantly black district. Somewhere else in the neighborhood was Melrose Record Shop, where Maya gets a job working alongside a reform Jew and a Christian Scientist. “The record shop was the most complete music shop in the black neighborhood in the Fillmore District.” After marrying a white man who almost made her become estranged from her mother, she’s pushed to give up the record store job (where she met him) because customers flirted with her. When they divorce after Maya realizing everything she likes has been taken from her, she gets a job dancing, which leads to a job singing, which leads to writing and directing and generally being a bad ass. Later, she comes back to SF to visit her mother who is staying with Leo Stein’s widow; Maya has a visceral reaction to the art on Mrs Stein’s walls, crying at the Matisses. Stein says “Your daughter cried because she is an artist.”