Maya Angelou released her new book just in time for Mother’s Day. Called “Mom & Me & Mom,” the 85-year-old looks back at the two mothers who most inspired her: her mother Vivian Baxter and her grandmother Annie Henderson.
Angelou had a complicated relationship with her mother, who sent her away at age 3 to live with her grandmother. She opens up about how she began to forgive Baxter and eventually love her in the book.
“I didn’t know I loved her. I just didn’t know I loved her, until I loved her,” Angelou tells the Associated Press of Baxter. “I guess when I really began to see that I loved her, it was because she could make me laugh. And she had once tried so hard to make me laugh and I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I was pregnant when I realized that I loved her. She just didn’t do anything that girls’ mothers did. She didn’t put me down. She didn’t make fun of me.”
In a separate interview with Face of the Nation, Angelou opens up about why her mother sent her away and how their relationship remained troubled when they were later reunited. Angelou also became a single mother at a young age, but it was her mother who pushed her to live the life she wanted to have.
“I couldn’t go home and tell Vivian Baxter that I wasn’t as tough as she thought I was,” Angelou says of her early attempts to get a job in a white working world. “So I sat there and after two weeks a man came out of an office and said, ‘Come in.’ He said, ‘Why do you want to work for the Metropolitan Railway Company?’ or whatever. And I said, ‘Because I like people and I like the uniforms.'”
“I got the job,” she continues. “My mother asked me, ‘Now what did you learn from that?’ … ‘Did you learn that with discipline, determination and intelligence you can do anything? Anything?’ And you know, I have done a lot of things, and Vivian Baxter, my mother, told me that.”