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

by Maya Angelou

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8,444133366 (3.96)1 / 354
Member:thekoolaidmom
Title:I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Authors:Maya Angelou
Info:Bantam (1983), Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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 (131)  Dutch (2)  All languages (133)
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
In this first of Angelou's memoirs, Maya and her brother Bailey are sent to live with their grandmother in Stamps, AR, when they are young children. They are raised in a strict but loving home and are aware, even at their tender ages, of the prejudices all around them. The children would sporadically live with their mother in St. Louis, their father in California and ultimately with their mother when she too moved to California. Both children were avid readers and excellent students. Maya's love for the written word would be her lifelong passion.

Although there were many instances of sadness, prejudice and even abuse, there was also a good deal of humor. The trip to Mexico with her father was quite funny as a 15-year-old Maya decided to drive her father's Hudson back to California, never mind that she had never driven a car before, with a drunk Daddy in the back seat. After crashing into another car at the border guard station and witnesses noticed the body on the back seat the incident nearly became criminal.

Maya spent a month living in a junk yard car, fought to become the first black allowed to work on city streetcars, and became pregnant at age 16. All of these things might have crushed a young girl's dreams, but Maya embraced all of her experiences into the woman she would become. I highly recommend this book, especially the audio read by Maya Angelou; it was stellar. ( )
  Ellen_R | Apr 6, 2016 |
I read this book the first of many times while teaching English. I shared many sections of the novel aloud to my 11th & 12th grade classes and watched with great pleasure as the power of Dr. Angelou's words enveloped them. I add this title today to honor a woman who touched my life in so many ways with her powerful words. May God hold her in the palm of his hand. ( )
  SharonRILINK | Mar 4, 2016 |
Know Why the Caged Bird Sings follows Marguerite's (called "My" or "Maya" by her brother) life from the age of three to seventeen and the struggles she faces – particularly with racism – in the Southern United States. Abandoned by their parents, Maya and her older brother Bailey are sent to live with their paternal grandmother (Momma) and crippled uncle (Uncle Willie) in Stamps, Arkansas. Maya and Bailey are haunted by their parents' abandonment throughout the book – they travel alone and are labeled like baggage.[18]


The community of Stamps, Arkansas, is the setting for most of the book.Many of the problems Maya encounters in her childhood stem from the overt racism of her white neighbors. Although Momma is relatively wealthy because she owns the general store at the heart of Stamps' black community, the white children of their town hassle Maya's family relentlessly. One of these "powhitetrash" girls, for example, reveals her pubic hair to Momma in a humiliating incident. Early in the book, Momma hides Uncle Willie in a vegetable bin to protect him from Ku Klux Klan raiders. Maya has to endure the insult of her name being changed to Mary by a racist employer. A white speaker at her eighth grade graduation ceremony disparages the black audience by suggesting that they have limited job opportunities. A white dentist refuses to treat Maya's rotting tooth, even when Momma reminds him that she had loaned him money during the Depression. The black community of Stamps enjoys a moment of racial victory when they listen to the radio broadcast of Joe Louis's championship fight, but generally they feel the heavy weight of racist oppression.

A turning point in the book occurs when Maya and Bailey's father unexpectedly appears in Stamps. He takes the two children with him when he departs, but leaves them with their mother in St. Louis, Missouri. Eight-year-old Maya is sexually abused and raped by her mother's boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. He is found guilty during the trial, but escapes jail time and is murdered, probably by Maya's uncles. Maya feels guilty and withdraws from everyone but her brother. Even after returning to Stamps, Maya remains reclusive and nearly mute until she meets Mrs. Bertha Flowers, "the aristocrat of Black Stamps",[19] who supplies her with books to encourage her love of reading. This coaxes Maya out of her shell.

Later, Momma decides to send her grandchildren to their mother in San Francisco, California, to protect them from the dangers of racism in Stamps. Maya attends George Washington High School and studies dance and drama on a scholarship at the California Labor School. Before graduating, she becomes the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. While still in high school, Maya visits her father in southern California one summer, and has some experiences pivotal to her development. She drives a car for the first time when she must transport her intoxicated father home from an excursion to Mexico. She experiences homelessness for a short time after a fight with her father's girlfriend.

During Maya's final year of high school, she worries that she might be a lesbian (which she equates with being a hermaphrodite), and initiates sexual intercourse with a teenage boy. She becomes pregnant, and on the advice of her brother, she hides from her family until her eighth month of pregnancy in order to graduate from high school. Maya gives birth at the end of the book and begins her journey to adulthood by accepting her role as mother to her newborn son.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
I began reading this book simple because I was named after Maya Angelou, and then I fell in love with her writing. This book shows most people a world they will never understand simply because if the time period they were born in. Maya's writing in this book is beautiful, its like any other book I have ever read. She describes situations in such detail I feel like I am there most of the time. In the book the characters are built up very well, they each have their own different opinions on the situations that happen which force the reader to see the situations from all different sides. ( )
  mhernd3 | Mar 3, 2016 |
I have meant to read this for a long time, and is was assigned for a class that I am taking. I am glad that I finally read it.

It is tragic, and matter-of-fact but not without beauty. Angelou vividly tells her memories, at times with subtle poetry. ( )
  AngelaGustafson | Jan 25, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maya Angelouprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rutten, KathleenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
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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What you looking at me for?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.
Haiku summary

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)

(summary from another edition)

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