I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou
Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age–and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns about love for herself and the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a modern American classic that will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.


Reviewed: 2021-01-21
Maya Angelou’s first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, floored me with the beauty of its language and the powerful insights it offered into life for African Americans in the 1930s and 1940s. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings tells of Angelou’s early life growing up in rural Arkansas and her eventual move to California in her teens.

In particular, the way Angelou explored the displacement of African Americans struck me as particularly powerful. One line stood out to me from the very beginning, “If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult.”

It is language like that that makes Angelou’s memoir one that will haunt me for a long time. Her writing takes your breath away with it’s fresh, brutal honesty and beauty. Occasionally, a phrase or idea cuts you as quick and as sharp as a knife.
Reviewed: 2018-03-29
Angelou’s descriptions of the people in her life clearly display her gratitude for what she’s learned from each of them. She speaks highly of her Grandmother (Momma) for teaching her what it means to have integrity, and of her Mother for being a shining light of love in her life. Angelou’s life is described in all its colour and complexity, and her honest accounts of how being a Black woman make her experiences unique but common were something I found to be anchors of common experience, even only slightly. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings moved me emotionally and humbled me, reminding me that no matter what life delivers, there is always something or someone to be thankful for.
Reviewed: 2015-01-28
I really liked this book, but the style annoys me. There are not a lot of commas, which makes me have to go back and read sentences several times to figure out the correct flow. That's really the only reason for the 3.5 stars instead of 4. Also, it ended abruptly, which was semi off-putting. I loved the story overall.
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