February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise | SLJ DVD Review

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redstarMaya Angelou: And Still I Rise. (American Masters). 114 min. PBS. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781627899871.

Gr 6 Up –Ask students if they recognize the name Maya Angelou (1928–2014) and most will respond that she’s a writer and a poet, but few will know about the remarkably varied and prodigious path her life took. Directors Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack combine archival photos and film and interviews with an impressive array of high-profile individuals and, most effective, with Angelou herself to provide an overview of her life and accomplishments. Starting with her rape at age seven and subsequent mutism for five years, her voracious appetite for books, and the birth of her son at age 16, the documentary moves on to her early days as a dancer in striptease clubs. Angelou’s knowledge of calypso song and dance launched her career as a performing artist and earned her the name recognition to move into theater. Additionally, her early and constant exposure to overt racism in Stamp, AR, where she spent most of her youth, spurred her strong involvement in the civil rights movement. The documentary touches on her work for Martin Luther King Jr. and highlights her friendship with Malcolm X. It is a moving memoir, likely to raise as many questions about Angelou’s life as it answers. VERDICT Besides capturing the many facets of Angelou’s life and the strength of her personality, the film also offers enough context for her oft-quoted books and speeches to make this a first purchase for school libraries.–Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2017 issue.

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