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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya…

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (original 1969; edition 1983)

by Maya Angelou

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8,089117396 (3.95)1 / 331
Title:I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Authors:Maya Angelou
Info:Bantam (1983), Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:20th Century, abuse, adult, african-american literature, american literature, Arkansas, Autobiography, banned, child abuse, coming of age, feminism, Maya Angelou, memoir, non-fiction, poetry, racism, rape, southern, women writers, read, borrowed from the library

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969)


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English (116)  Dutch (1)  All languages (117)
Showing 1-5 of 116 (next | show all)
This is Maya Angelou's first autobiography, and her best known book, which recounts her childhood and growth into a young woman. She had an eventful and frequently traumatic experience. The book opens with her journey by train with her brother, after they were shipped off to live with their grandmother wearing tags with their name and desired location. They move to the small town of Stamps in the South, where the segregation is intense and poverty is a regular feature of life. Marguerite (Maya) is a bright young girl, introverted, trying to figure out the inconsistencies and injustices around her. Her grandmother, who they soon come to call simply Momma, is a respected woman in the black community, and owns and runs the general store. That doesn't prevent Momma from suffering indignities at the hands of the white people they happen to encounter, or keep Marguerite from having to work as a maid at a rich white woman's house for a short period. These moments are bitter highlights in her life, but she does have happy memories from her time in Stamps, such as her devoted love for her brother, her friendship with , her academic success, her support from Mrs. Flowers, and her awakening maturity and confidence.

Many of the episodes Maya relates are sad, but her spirit and intelligence as she faced her challenges is heartening, empowering. I understand why her autobiographies have garnered such a following. She lived through prejudice, unfair laws, child abuse, and an intentionally restricted education, to become a mature and intelligent woman with a powerful voice. The book was easy to read, fluid and intimate, and always engrossing. (The only exception was reading the parts that described when Marguerite was raped by her mother's boyfriend when she was just a little girl, because that is the most awful thing a human can do to another, and it was horrible to read.) This is just the first in a series of life stories that Angelou wrote. I wanted to read it to complete my unfinished business - I read parts of this book in high school but not the whole thing - but I am now interested in learning more about Marguerite's life journey. ( )
  nmhale | Sep 13, 2015 |
I personally found this book to be okay.

I was rather engaged in the beginning, as I found Maya's description and narrative style to be rather fascinating. As the book progressed, however, I felt that I was losing the plot and started to become a bit disengaged with the book.

A good book that captured my intellect, but not my heart ( )
  RajivC | Sep 6, 2015 |
This was the first assigned book I ever enjoyed...it opened my spirit to English class and reading anything of depth. Prior to this autobiography, my experiences in English class were dry and I only read thrillers, nonfiction, and Arthurian romance novels by choice.

I was all about narratives after this... there was salvation in reading the story of someone who really existed and had a worse life than me. Reading this novel was liberating and life-altering (and I still remember Mrs. Meyer's lesson with the Hershey Kiss during this unit).

Highly recommended--beautiful, shocking, inspiring. After this, I trusted my teacher's choices and opened my mind to a dozen challenging and rich classics....thanks Mrs. Meyer.
( )
  engpunk77 | Aug 14, 2015 |
  OberlinSWAP | Jul 20, 2015 |
What else is there to say besides amazing. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is Maya Angelou’s first biography about her growing up in the segregated south and her time out of there in St. Louis and California. You feel her pain as she realizes more and more what it means to be a black woman. This is my first time reading anything by Maya Angelou and I can’t believe it took me so long to do so. She writes beautifully and very articulately about her experiences. No doubt it is a classic and should be read in schools nationwide. ( )
  GrlIntrrptdRdng | Jul 4, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 116 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maya Angelouprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rutten, KathleenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is dedicated to my son
Guy Johnson,
and all the strong black birds of promise who defy the odds and gods and sing their songs
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James Baldwin Writes:

This testimony from a Black sister marks the beginning of a new era in the minds and hearts and lives of all Black men and women...
I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS liberates the reader into life simply because Maya Angelou confronts her own life with such a moving wonder, such a luminous dignity. I have no words for this achievement, but I know that not since the days of my childhood, when the people in books were more real than the people one saw every day, have I found myself so moved ...
her portrait is a Biblical study of life in the midst of death."

The Moving and Beautiful autobiography of a talented black woman. She continues her story in gather together in GATHER TOGETHER IN MY NAME, SINGIN' AND SWINGIN' AND GETTIN' MERRY LIKE CHRISTMAS and THE HEART OF A WOMAN.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553279378, Mass Market Paperback)

In this first of five volumes of autobiography, poet Maya Angelou recounts a youth filled with disappointment, frustration, tragedy, and finally hard-won independence. Sent at a young age to live with her grandmother in Arkansas, Angelou learned a great deal from this exceptional woman and the tightly knit black community there. These very lessons carried her throughout the hardships she endured later in life, including a tragic occurrence while visiting her mother in St. Louis and her formative years spent in California--where an unwanted pregnancy changed her life forever. Marvelously told, with Angelou's "gift for language and observation," this "remarkable autobiography by an equally remarkable black woman from Arkansas captures, indelibly, a world of which most Americans are shamefully ignorant."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:44 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Presents the story of a spirited and gifted, but poor, black girl growing up in the South in the 1930's. Tells how she came into her own, experiencing prejudice, family difficulties, and a relationship with a teacher who taught her to respect books, learning, and herself. The moving and beautiful autobiography of a talented black woman. "I have no words for this achievement, but I know that not since the days of my childhood have I found myself so moved. Her portrait is a Biblical study of life in the midst of death".-James Baldwin.… (more)

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