In 1974, Angelou published her second autobiography Gather Together in My Name. The book follows the three years after the birth of Angelou’s son. In the book, Angelou chronicles her experiences through a series of colorful events, jobs, and relationships. When the book opens, Maya is living with her two month old baby in San Francisco with her mother and stepfather. She finds work as a cook and rents a room for her and her son to live in. In San Francisco, she experiences her first real love and her first heartbreak. She soon moved to San Diego. Angelou works as a Madame for a brief time.
Determined to make a better life for herself and her son, Angelou attempts to enlist in the U.S. Army, but her past association with the California Labor School prevents this from happening. The recruiters deny her application, fearing that she may be a member of the Communist party. After a brief stint as a dancer Angelou meets and falls in love with Lou “L.D.” Tolbrook, who convinces her to work as a prostitute to help get him out of debt. Believing that it is the least she can do for love, she works and spends time with Tolbrook when she can. Rita is then forced to abruptly leave her job and son in Stockton while she tends to her ailing mother and her beloved brother who has just lost his wife to tuberculosis.
During the course of the three years in which the story takes place Angelou moves from San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Stockton and even travels back to Stamps, Arkansas. In Gather Together in My Name, Angelou is more reckless and aimless. Her naiveté and lack of experience often impacts her decision making process. Despite this, after each misstep, Angelou seems to learn some life lesson that aids in her maturity.
Gather Together in My Name focuses on motherhood and what it means to be a mother. When her son is abducted by the babysitter with whom she has left him for a week, Angelou realizes the consequences of her actions. The reunion with her son changes her perspective on motherhood and brings clarity to their relationship. She ultimately forgives the babysitter and learns a valuable lesson in the process of learning from her mistakes.
In Gather Together in My Name Angelou adopts a more anecdotal approach to her life story. The stories are exciting and sensational at times. At the end however, the reader is left with a sense of hopefulness. It is clear that Angelou has grown.