Title: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”
Author: Maya Angelou
Pages (paperback): 289 pages
Original Publishing Date: 1969
Synopsis (from the back cover):
“Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.
“Sent by their mother to live with their devout grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother endure the ache of abandonment and prejudice. 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 that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned. Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.”
Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:
- child rape
- physical child abuse
Representation in the novel:
I wasn’t really expecting much when I started I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Not that I thought it was going to be terrible; I just had no positive or negative opinion about it before reading it. And…I guess my opinion (or lack thereof) hasn’t really changed?
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou is a memoir taking place when Maya is between the ages of about five or six to around fifteen or sixteen. It’s about her childhood with her grandmother, brother, and uncle in Stamps, a small Southern town, as well as her time in California spent with her mother’s family and her father.
At times, it was heartwarming. Angelou writes like whatever age she was at the time, I think. That includes child wonder and curiosity. One of my favorite parts of the novel was the scene when Maya was graduating from the eighth grade. In the beginning of the ceremony, she was so full of hope and excitement as to what was to come.
But like there were joyous times, there were also horrible, traumatic times, too. It was hard reading how Angelou was raped as a young girl, as well as the racism she and her family and friends had to endure.
I thought the writing was beautiful; Angelou definitely has a way with words. However, although it was written nicely, there were some parts that just…didn’t interest me? I feel bad for saying that because this book is about a part of someone’s life, but the portions talking about her experiences with religion and church just didn’t grab me. It’s weird because everything else in the book was nice to read, but for whatever reason, the church/religion scenes seemed to drag on for me.
Despite that, I still enjoyed reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and I would recommend it to others.