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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

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,738141346 (3.96)1 / 369
Title:I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Authors:Maya Angelou
Info:Bantam (1983), Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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


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English (139)  Dutch (2)  All languages (141)
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
This auto-biography is told in the first person. It covers Maya Angelou's life up to the age of 16 years. She was born in 1928 and spent much of her young life in Stamps Arkansas. She begins when she and her just older brother, Bailey Jr were sent to live with their grandmother after their parents divorced. Her grandmother runs the local store. Maya Angelou tells about racism but also about people who supported her, recognised her gifts and encouraged these and of the love of her grandmother and uncle and she learns how to act with discipline and dignity. This is a wonderfully told account of a young woman’s coming of age, with political changes in the background. Maya Angelou appears to write honestly about her experiences and her prose is poetic but also clear. There are some sections that are difficult to read and she tells these in a straight forward way. There are also sections of humour and her time in Mexico with her father was interesting. What comes through is that Maya Angelou was loved and she was bright and enjoyed learning. ( )
  Tifi | Sep 15, 2016 |
A wonderful memoir about the challenges of growing up with ubiquitous discrimination. Though at times wrenching as Maya grows she increasingly counters this oppression. ( )
  kale.dyer | Aug 26, 2016 |
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Angelou
Audio performance by the author
4 stars

It was so wonderful to hear Maya Angelou reading to me in her deep, measured, carefully articulated voice. I felt she was in the room with me, on the road with me, making sure that I understood these events of her life as she understood them. It was wonderful, and it was awful. To hear her describe her own rape; her childhood shame and humiliation, was painful. Her voice became almost clinical and I felt her necessary emotional distancing. I felt that distancing again when she related her traumatic ‘vacation’ with her father and her solitary endurance of a teenaged pregnancy. I loved listening to her, but I think I felt more of the emotional content of her writing, and definitely more of the humor, when I read the text to myself. ( )
  msjudy | Jul 21, 2016 |
An excellent, honest, heart-felt memoir that grips the reader in myriad ways. Some portions of it I could not stop reading, and others were so honest in their depictions of racial strife that they seemed to have been written last week. Definitely a good read about a young girl's life, and the world is richer for having had Ms. Angelou in it. ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
Trigger Warnings: Racism, Violence, Murder, Lynching, Graphic Language, Rape

This memoir of Maya Angelo's first sixteen years follows the poet from her roots in Stamps, Arkansas, to her youth in California, focusing on the major pieces of her life that made the poet such a galvanizing force.

I know that most kids read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in high school, but I never did, so it seemed about time. Reading this now, I have a feeling that I would never have understood or cared about this book had I read it at a younger age. There's something here that would absolutely strike a chord in black readers, but for me, I wouldn't have understood the difficulties in Maya's upbringing as a black girl between the 1920 and 1950s. I still can't know, really, the intensity of her struggles. The fear she felt as a young girl when faced with whitefolk; or the amount of courage it took to fight for months to be the first black woman conductorette; are things I cannot understand.

What struck me the most in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is how Angelou never fails to point out the people who supported her through her tumultuous childhood. Modern feminist literature takes a more navel-gazing, internalized look at things: family, friendships and relationships are mentioned but authors only really delve into who people are in relation to the narrator. Angelou does not do this with her family; each person is fleshed out as their own being. We hear things about them that do not have much to do with Angelou. But knowing the people in her life helps the reader to better understand Angelou herself. We learn about who she is not just by what she says, but how she says it--We know she was wildly smart because she says she went ot mostly white schools outside of her community; and we know she's cares deeply about her entire family, because she talks about them outside of herself.

There's another reason Angelou talks about other people's stories within her own though--she's also describing, as fully as she possibly can based on what she's lived through, the black experience. White women attempt to call her Mary instead of her real name, Marguerite, because her real name is too long to say; she sits with her stepfather as his friends regale her with how they con white folks out of money and property (the only real way they can feel powerful and able to 'get one over' on their supressors); her brother is forced to help dispose of a lynched man's body by order of a racist white man; and Africa seems like a fantasy world, and unreal place that they couldn't have possible come from. The mental and physical abuse are still wildly prevalent in today's world; most prominently are the attacks on black men, women, and children that have incited the #BlackLivesMatter movement; and the incident in which a reporter attempted to call Quvenzahne Wallis "Annie".

Even if you've read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in high school, I highly recommend reading it again. In the midst of #BlackLivesMatter and the racism still prevalent and terrifyingly, on the rise, in the United States, Angelou's memoir is a reminder to everyone of how far we still have to go. ( )
  Rituleen | May 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
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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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(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.
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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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