Monday, August 16, 2010

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsTitle: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Author: Maya Angleou
Pages: 285
Published: 2009 Random House (orig. 1969)
My Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the first in a series of chronological autobiographies by Maya Angelou.  While very aware of Maya Angelou's name, (and what a lyrical name she has,) I was distinctly unaware of anything else about her.  (I'd like to thank The Blue Bookcase for the review that spurred me to dive in.)  This book gives you the background of her childhood, and a chance to see the world through her eyes.

I have to admit that I began reading the book without much thought as to when she grew up or when the book was published, which I am certain detracted somewhat from my initial reaction.  When I found myself thinking that the content didn't seem to be ultra-incredibly-wonderful, I immediately stopped myself, re-read the copyright page (I love copyright pages--a wealth of information!) and reminded myself that not only is it a Nonfiction account, but it was written in a time when shocking or therapeutic memoirs weren't all the rage.

There is something magical about the way Maya Angelou sets words down on paper.  She sees the world through a wider lens, and isn't afraid to be honest about all the thoughts and confusion that swirled around in her head.  Indeed, she seems to see clearly those complicated parts of life that most people are content to leave unconsidered.  Her ability to single out personality and relationship characteristics is thought-provoking.

Don't let the fact that this ended up being an introspective read for me make you think that it is universally introspective.  Much happens in the 15 or so years in this book--there really isn't a boring spot.  Little Marguerite (a.k.a. My and Maya) goes through so many things that it is a wonder she rose above.  Not only that, but she grew up in the midst of an historical period in United States history.  Read it for the accurate historical account, read it for the shared personal anguish, read it for the musical writing, read it for the introspection, but do read it.


  1. I read this years'n'years ago (in high school), and I can still vividly recall the shock and horror I felt when she saw that corn cob in her grandfather's pants. Ugh! Poor little girl. (I may have gotten the details wrong, but I am SURE you know what I'm talking about).

    I did not know this was the first in a series of her autobiographies! I think this is the only work I've ever read by Angelou, which seems somehow wrong. Do you have plans to read anything else she's written?

  2. Yeah, see? There are definite gape & cringe parts of the book!

    I don't have any immediate plans to read more of her work, but absolutely will at some point. There is something about her writing that is captivating.

  3. I read this a couple of years ago when I was going to be teaching it to a grade nine class. It was definitely something that they (and I!) enjoyed, since it was written in an accessible style and was interesting all the way through.

  4. Listen to her read the poem on Buckshot LeFonque with the music of Branford Marsarlis. Magical.
    Melody xx


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