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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

24 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

A Review of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Albert Ellis once said, "The art of love.is largely persistence" and in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by critically acclaimed Maya Angelou, persistence is exactly what young Maya intends to keep strong. The completely autobiographical memoir lures the reader in with i...
Albert Ellis once said, "The art of love.is largely persistence" and in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by critically acclaimed Maya Angelou, persistence is exactly what young Maya intends to keep strong. The completely autobiographical memoir lures the reader in with its depiction of the lives of blacks in the Deep South during the Depression. Within the heart of rural Stamps, Arkansas little Maya and her brother Bailey are prisoners of the tight knit community and all that it brings. Along with their sacrilegious Grandmother, who is constantly in a fit in regards to any lack of obedience, Maya struggles to find her place. On the surface, she plays a character who genuinely enjoys living among her interesting quartet of a family, her Grandmother, her physically disabled Uncle Willie, and her true joy in life, Bailey are all she has in the world until her estranged father arrives to take Maya and Bailey to live with "Mother Dearest." The life of the big city entrances Maya and her imagination. While living with her mother, Maya receives an education, and meets all sorts of different people, one of those people being Mr. Freeman, Maya's mother's boyfriend. When Mr. Freeman takes advantage of eight year old Maya, it becomes clear that the children must be sent back home to their little town of Stamps.
For the rest of Maya's time in Stamps, she encounters all sorts of different types of people; people who will make a great impact in due time, and those who simply play a role in every day fun. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings portrays a great tale of a young girl's battle to suppress the boredom of country life and strive for a greater meaning to her existence while also dealing with the inevitable battles of growing up.
Maya Angelou's writing is flawless and each phrase is master crafted to perfection as she explores the truth of her childhood. "Looking through the years, I marvel that Saturday was my favorite day in the week. What pleasures could have been squeezed between the fanfolds of unending tasks? Children's talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives." (113) The beauty of her words flow together in a magnificent mosaic of phrases and each step in this eloquent autobiography leaves a lingering sense of compassion in the reader's heart. The heart wrenching moments, though distressing, are overshadowed by the little joys Maya always seems to find. The way she confronts the temptations and urges throughout her teenage years are exposed in great detail as she takes little steps to achieve what she considers the "normality" of being a teenage girl.
I truly enjoyed this radiant and joyful story with its realistic balance of pain and pleasure. The reader will be forever mindful of this little girl's journey into adulthood, the quest for love, and the long standing clash with society.

posted by Cassidy54 on February 22, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

15 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings

The book, "I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings," is a book about this African American girl, Marguerite, who was perfectly fine one day, then the next, never speaks again. She finally speaks when Ms. Flowers helps her speak again; for the first time in almost a year. Somet...
The book, "I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings," is a book about this African American girl, Marguerite, who was perfectly fine one day, then the next, never speaks again. She finally speaks when Ms. Flowers helps her speak again; for the first time in almost a year. Something happen to that girl when she was at her rich grandmother's house, that changed her live forever; something happen, that made her never want to speak again, and Mrs. Flowers seems to be the only person that can help her.
Marguerite was a beautiful little girl. Her skin was as rich brown, she was very smart too. Her brother and her was both very close. They were like best friends. Her poor grandmother lived in Arkansas and her rich grandmother lived in Missouri. Margurerite would have to travel back and forth to see both. Her parents also lived in Missouri with her grandmother. Her mom seemed to always have a different man around, and her dad, well her dad was always working.
One day, when Marguerite and her brother was in Missouri visting her grandmother, one of her mom's "boyfriends" came home and was very "touchy" with her. She asked that man, "What do you think your doing?" He replied with, "Let's just play a game." She replied nervously, "I don't think I like this game." He forced her on the couch and sexually abused her. Her mom walks in and she pretends like nothing ever happened. Then when her family in Missouri finds out, they kill the man. Marguerite was so terrified. She blamed the murder on herself, saying that it's all her fault because she opened her mouth. So she said that she will never speak again, so nobody will ever get hurt again. She just wanted to go home to Arkansas.
Finally, when Marguerite and her brother arrived in Arkansas, nobody can seem to get her to speak. She refused. Wouldn't even speak a word in school. Ms. Flowers came in her grandmother, Mrs. Baxter's store and buys a few groceries. She asked if Marguerite and help her carry them home. Marguerite accepted. So they headed to Ms. Flowers house.
Ms. Flowers respected her. She read her a beautiful poem, made her cookies, and gave her some tea. Marguerite felt honored and cared for. She was so happy and delighted, that when Ms. Flowers asked her a question; just one question, Marguerite answered with, "Yes, mam." That was her first word since the accident. Her final words. She believed that Ms. Flowers alteast deserved that.

posted by 3411861 on April 22, 2010

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  • Posted January 26, 2011

    I recommend

    I enjoy reading about other's lives. What is your story? I felt so sorry for Maya and all that she has gone through in her life, especially the childhood years. There is no answer for racisim. Why do people do that? I just do not understand and this book gives you an insight from Maya's side of the story. God has truly blessed Maya and she is very worthy of all of his gracious Blessings.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    WOW!!!!!!!!!

    I had to read this book for my summer reading project. Usually the assigned books suck but this one eas the best ive read! I cant believe how great this book actually was! Its touching to the heart and makes the perfect inspiration story!!!!!!!!! :D

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 25, 2013

    Very highly recommend

    I first read this book at least 10 years ago. I can appreciate it more now that I know so much more about Maya Angelou. She keeps the story moving and her writing is easy to follow. I just wish the storyline didn't have to end when it did. It was interesting to learn about the cultures and beliefs of different people, especially those in the South.

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  • Posted February 12, 2013

    This  book was amazingly fascinating, and i love reading about a

    This  book was amazingly fascinating, and i love reading about an insiders point of view on history. however she sometimes went on unrelated tangents, and some of the scenes in which she talks about were a  bit draggy and difficult to read. i found that for some parts i had to force myself to keep reading. other than these few parts, it was a very good book, it had a different point of view about the racism that went on other than a white point, and her story is remarkable. of view,

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2013

    To all the clan people

    Would you make a website or something instead of useing book reviews it is stupid & insulting to the authers that spent there time that they will never get back so would you stop it

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  • Posted March 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    a must read

    a good read shows the spirit of following true even do evryone one is telling you shold be jus what your suipose to be i found it motivitating how she endure afther all she when true jus did not like the ending did nopt feel it was and ending but overall a good read

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  • Posted November 27, 2011

    Power and Strength Do Not Come Easy

    Maya Angelou writes her life story in the book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, expressing through stories of her childhood how she was shaped into the strong young adult version of herself at the end of the story. I liked how the in the beginning of the story she starts off with an uncomfortable situation she dealt with at church and how this showed her insecurities as a child. Maya explains how the time period and the environment she lives in was a daily struggle for the social discrimination against African Americans. Also as siblings, Maya and her older brother Bailey always had it tough, dealing with the separation of their parents because they sent them to Arkansas when they were very young and their parents lived in California, their mother in San Francisco and their father in Los Angeles. One of my favorite scenes from the book was when the children received Christmas presents from their parents that brought a lot of confusion and upset to them. Maya goes out to the backyard to be alone to sort out her feelings which is described well through imagery. Bailey comes out to the place where Maya has been crying and tries to be the older, manly figure by sniffling instead of losing it all where she cries and cries. I thought it showed a beautiful connection between the siblings and what they have been through and the uncertainties of their future. People would like this book because it¿s constantly interesting; her stories bring adventure, like her trip to Mexico with her father where she drives down a mountain with her father asleep in the backseat. Her stories also bring a lot of emotion for example when she leaves her dad¿s house and lives in a car for a month before coming back to her mother. Even though those times were tough for her, she explains without those types of experiences she wouldn¿t have matured the way she did and she wouldn¿t have learned the most important things in life. She believes the people in someone¿s life who give the same effort of love and appreciation as that person gives them are the ones to keep close to their heart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2010

    A Beautiful book!~loved it :)

    As I was given the list of A.P. books to pick from for my next term I was really overwhelmed because honestly I had no clue where to even start. Then my teacher gave me the suggestion of this book and I am so glad she did because I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is such an inspiring and interesting book, and it also gives you great insight about how she grew up and a new perspective to think about during the great depression and war times. Along with all these great qualities in the book, the way that Maya Angelou writes her story down is fascinating and the reason why is because of her details. She puts in all her thoughts, feelings, and reactions in a way that is so specific and intriguing. This, to me, is a very important part of any book, but especially in auto-biographies like this book because who wants to hear a story about someone's life that is general and blunt? In fact any book that is truly interesting and enjoyable to read is going to be a book that really digs deep and gets specific about things. Maya Angelou exemplifies this wonderfully and I believe that is one of the reasons why I loved this book so much. Another fantastic thing about this book, that the details really help to bring out, is how African-Americans lived during those times and Maya's perspective of growing up throughout that time period. The segregation of people with different colored skin that she talks about with her own personal experiences is unbelievable. It is hard to imagine a girl close to my own age seeing all of that around her and having so many life changing events come and go in her life like that. What really impresses me is how she handled it all. She had so many trials and obstacles going against her, but she stayed strong with the help of her family, friends, and neighbors, and she worked hard for what she wanted to do. At one point in the book, she talks about how she really wanted a job to raise a little money, but she didn't want just any job she had a certain one in mind. The only problem with this is that back then they weren't hiring colored people for that job, but this didn't stop her. She worked hard and did everything she could to be hired and in the end she was. This stood out to me and I want to personally follow her example that you can do anything,if you set your heart and mind to it. I absolutely enjoyed this book, and I want to share it with others, but just know that some of these chapters may be more age appropriate for older readers. I understand why she put those details in there, and it is sad to think about everything she went through, but I guess it happens. Hopefully you enjoy this book as much as I have and it gives you as much inspiration that it has given me because in my opinion hope is what makes the "Caged Bird Sing"!

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  • Posted May 18, 2010

    Talented

    I liked how she shared things; it was more than mere matter of fact but not to detailed to be mundane. She didn't dwell on any particular event & the portraits she painted were so real it's inspiring, (that it actually happened to someone of such talented writing skills). The subject matter is not one to read over & over again, but it's something that should not be missed regardless of usual tastes in reading material. I also recommend this book on CD, as the author makes memorable adages to songs-from-the-day really come to life, (not to mention the emotion that no one can really anticipate without knowing where the story is going).

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  • Posted January 31, 2010

    The Younger Maya Angelou

    This was her first memoir, but I just got around to reading it. I am familiar with some of her later work and wanted to see what her early life was like. It is a very moving story of what it was like to be a Black child and woman in those years. It was written with love, but is also honest about the bad things. This was a good book.

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  • Posted January 27, 2010

    NOT for children or adolescents!

    A harrowing rape scene, and other adult material render this book inappropriate for kids; however, it is a fantastic piece of literature which I hope is and will be read by college-age students widely.

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  • Posted January 6, 2010

    English Assingment For The Best

    A young woman separated from her parents after they suffer a divorce moved to live with her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. The only piece of home taken with her was her brother she loved ever so much, named Bailey. She grows up facing many trials and tribulations but manages to get through them one at a time. Everything she went through seemed to be so new for during the time of World War II, life in the south was much different than it was for her when she lived up north. This is the story of a young Maya Angelou as told in the autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This book was written very well for it shows the emotion and insight on what a young African American woman went through in the early 1930s that the average history book cannot. This book portrays passion and displays the true feeling in a way that the reader will be captivated the entire time no matter how gruesome the scenes get. It opens the eyes of any reader whether young, old, male, or female and brings thoughts one would never have before.

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings begins with a description of a scene from Maya Angelou's childhood and as the book develops, she explains how she belittles herself and soon grows. When she looks at herself, she saw what the white people thought of her as. Nothing but another Negro. Young white children teased her about anything they could in any way they could and she said herself, "Wouldn't they be surprised when one day I woke out of my black ugly dream, and my real hair, which was long and blond, would take the place of the kinky mass that Momma wouldn't let me straighten? My light blue eyes were going to hypnotize them..." She does not accept herself for who she is, "because I was really white", she said, "and because a cruel fairy stepmother, who was understandably jealous of my beauty, had turned me into a too-big Negro girl, with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth that could hold a number-two pencil." For much of her life, Maya Angelou thought those of the white race were unreal. She could relate to them in no way and stated that they were simply not people, to her, they were described, as "strange pale creatures that lived in their alien unlife, weren't considered people. They were whitefolks." Many readers would not take lightly to this statement, but the fact of the matter is, this is how she felt, this is how she saw them, and this is the truth of what went on. That right there is why this book gives the reality. Maya Angelou's descriptions and explications of how she felt draws the reader into and alluring state not easily broken, for the reader will begin to feel for Maya Angelou for there is simply no way to escape the fact that her depictions of life as an African American are too real and afflictive.

    As the story continues on she faces one tragedy after another and with this book, the portrayal is heavy making this book hard to put down. Each word acts as a cipher one needs to keep reading to solve to understand Maya Angelou's intense life. Through the struggles and strife faced in this autobiography, the reader will have gone through a complete change of mind. Maya Angelou's writing is truly magnificent for her honesty. She does not sweeten, hide, or change the truth of the reality.With Maya Angelou's words, descriptions, actions, and thoughts, this book creates an absolute masterpiece that all should read as they will enjoy.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This book is wonderful

    I chose to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings because of an essay I read in a college English Comp. class. The book draws you in and transports you to an earlier time to introduce you to those people who guided Maya Angelou to the person she has become. You feel like a silent observer, only a breath away from from the scenes of her life. It's as if you could reach out and hold the hand of that quiet little girl as she grew into a powerful presence.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2008

    inspiring and a great book

    read it in high school. loved it so much. i bought the book and whenever i need something to read.. i read this book. it is written well. easy to follow. a great, fast paced story line. all you need for a good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2007

    Cool Book.

    I finished this book yesterday. I was forced to read it for my final school project like most of the people and I realy loved this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2007

    A Worthy Autobiography

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is one of the best autobiographies I've ever read. Although like most autobiographies, Maya Angelou tends to stray from her original plot line and into detailed tangents, she still manages to keep the reader hooked. The first few chapters are kind of slow, drudging out her childhood in a small town in Arkansas, but around the middle of the book it picks up. At first her story really seems like a coming of age novel with a few relatively predictable plot twists, but eventually Angelou's life ends up displaying the struggles of her race and sex. This makes the novel a whole lot more interesting to read and gives it depth. This is book is fast read if your dedicated to it. It takes a bit to get through the beginning and the last few chapters are very candid and blunt making them a little more difficult to wade through but it's still pretty quick. I really think this book is worth reading, if not for the tons of things you learn about segregation during the 1900's then for the pure literary enrichment it provides.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2005

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

    I truly do know why my Am. Lit. teacher had me read this book. It was wonderful, once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. Never a dull page, and the way that I felt like I was standing right there with all of the characters. Very few authors have the ability to display a story in that way. Amazing book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2005

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

    I thought the book was great. Her book was well written. Maya Angelou told about how it was to be a young black girl in the '60s. It was a truly fascinating story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2005

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

    I have read many books in my life, and many of these books were about African Americans, and this book is definately not like the ones that I have read so far. In her book, Maya details life in the south perfectly, so the reader can form a clear picture of what life was like for black people in those days, but at the same time not be overwhelmed by gory details. She shows the differences between the communities that Bailey and Marguerite traveled to. She also painted a clear picture of just how bad segregation was during those times. I give this book four stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2004

    The Caged Bird Escapes

    In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou and her older brother Bailey experienced racism and segregation when they shipped to rural Stamps, Arkansas to live with their grandmother Annie Henderson. ¿Momma¿ operated and owned the only store in the black community of Stamps, Arkansas and is the essence of Christian morals and values in Maya¿s life. As young black children feeling displaced and being shuttled from home to home, Maya and Bailey struggled with internal and emotional pain of rejection and abandonment by their parents. As their life in Stamps began becoming more dangerous and unbearable, ¿Momma¿ sent Maya and Bailey back to their mother in California. In this autobiography, the structure of the story line is honest, precise, and accurate. Ms. Maya Angelou remained true to her childhood roots by up rooting and unmasking every detail, belief, and thought that she encountered during her childhood. The transitional change in her life from Long Beach, California to Stamps, Arkansas forced Maya to open her eyes and realize the inequality and injustice the African American society faced daily. Maya grew to acknowledge the difference between her brown skin and nappy hair, and those with the fair skin and fine hair, and how some people demanded to maintain a separation. As a young child she portrayed the naïve characteristics that at first blinded her from seeing the real world in the 1930s. In this autobiography, not every section of a chapter is as exciting and powerful than the last. The raising and falling climax differ periodically. Furthermore, there are various sections in the autobiography that can be considered uninteresting. Since the story is non fiction every developed aspect is not always appealing and mesmerizing. Finally, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a great autobiography and I would recommend it to anyone who has patience.

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