I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

4.2 493
by Maya Angelou

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In the first volume of an extraordinary autobiographical series, one of the most inspiring authors of our time recalls--with candor, humor, poignancy and grace--how her journey began....  See more details below


In the first volume of an extraordinary autobiographical series, one of the most inspiring authors of our time recalls--with candor, humor, poignancy and grace--how her journey began....

Editorial Reviews

NY Times Book Review
The wisdom, rue and humor of her storytelling are borne on a lilting rhythm completely her own, the product of a born writer's senses nourished on black church singing and preaching, soft mother talk and salty street talk, and on literature: James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Shakespeare and Gorki.
Library Journal
If your originals of these two popular titles (LJ 9/1/78, LJ 3/15/70, respectively) have seen better days, these reprints offer affordable, high-quality replacements.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4A young Ashanti boy invites readers to visit his West African village, famous for fine kente cloth, and to share his "magic"a masterful imagination. Artistic typesetting composition is accompanied by appealing color photos that bring the lyrical text into sharp focus. Kofi is an engaging scamp whose vivid "daydreams" that transport him to other places will speak to children everywhere and present them with a clear vision of his beloved West African world. Kofi's joy in his life is reflected in both text and pictorial content and will be an eye-opener to more materialistic children in technically developed environments. A winner.Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY
Sacred Fire
This statement as much as any other defines the uniquely expansive and knowing vision of Maya Angelou. In her works of poetry, drama, and memoir, she describes the imperfections and perversions of humanity_men, women, black, white_with an unrelenting and sometimes jarring candor. But that candor is leavened by an unusually strong desire to comprehend the worst acts of the people around her and find a way for hope and love to survive in spite of it all. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the beautifully written and brutally honest chronicle of Angelou's life from her arrival in Stamp, Arkansas, at age three to the birth of her only child in San Francisco, at age sixteen. In between those two events, Angelou provides an unfbrgettable memoir of growing up black in the 1930s and 1940s in a tiny southern town in Arkansas.

Angelou vividly describes the everyday indignities pressed on blacks in her small town, whether by the condescending white women who shortened her name to Mary because her real name, Marguerite, took too long to say, or by the cruel white dentist who refused to treat her because ... . my policy is I'd rather stick my hand in a dog's mouth than a nigger's. She also faced horror and brutality at the hands of her own people_she was raped by her mother's boyfriend when she was eight years old and later witnessed his murder at the hands of her uncles, a trauma that sent her into a shell of silence for years. Nevertheless, she emphasizes the positive things she learned from the "rainbows" in the black community of her youth that helped her survive and keep her hopes alive: her grandmother, Momma, who owned a general store and remained a pillar despite the struggles of being a black woman in a segregated and racist southern town; the Holy Rollers of the revivalist black church, who used coded language to attack the racist system they lived under; and Mrs.Bertha Flowers, the aristocratic black woman who brought her back from her shell of silence by introducing her to a love of literature, language, and recitation.

Her mastery of language and storytelling allows Angelou to record the incidents that shaped and troubled her, while also giving insight into the larger social and political tensions of the 1930s. She explains both the worst aspects of her youth and the frequent moments of exhilaration with drama and vigor; it's in the carefully described details and minor incidents that her childhood world is brought to life. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was nominated for the National Book Award in 1970 and remains an immensely popular book among people worldwide to this day for its honest and hopeful portrait of a woman finding the strength to overcome any adversity, of a caged bird who found the means to fly. Angelou has written four follow_up autobiographical works: Gather Together in My Name, Singin Swinginand Getting Merry Like Christmas, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes, and Heart of a Woman.

From the Publisher
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.”—James Baldwin

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
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5.64(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.75(d)

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"What you looking at me for?
I didn't come to stay . . ."

I hadn't so much forgot as I couldn't bring myself to remember. Other things were more important.

"What you looking at me for?
I didn't come to stay . . ."

Whether I could remember the rest of the poem or not was immaterial. The truth of the statement was like a wadded-up handkerchief, sopping wet in my fists, and the sooner they accepted it the quicker I could let my hands open and the air would cool my palms.

"What you looking at me for . . . ?"

The children's section of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church was wiggling and giggling over my well-known forgetfulness.

The dress I wore was lavender taffeta, and each time I breathed it rustled, and now that I was sucking in air to breathe out shame it sounded like crepe paper on the back of hearses.

As I'd watched Momma put ruffles on the hem and cute little tucks around the waist, I knew that once I put it on I'd look like a movie star. (It was silk and that made up for the awful color.) I was going to look like one of the sweet little white girls who were everybody's dream of what was right with the world. Hanging softly over the black Singer sewing machine, it looked like magic, and when people saw me wearing it they were going to run up to me and say, "Marguerite [sometimes it was 'dear Marguerite'], forgive us, please, we didn't know who you were," and I would answer generously, "No, you couldn't have known. Of course I forgive you."

Just thinking about it made me go around with angel's dust sprinkled over my face for days. But Easter's early morning sun had shown the dress to be a plain uglycut-down from a white woman's once-was-purple throwaway. It was old-lady-long too, but it didn't hide my skinny legs, which had been greased with Blue Seal Vaseline and powdered with the Arkansas red clay. The age-faded color made my skin look dirty like mud, and everyone in church was looking at my skinny legs.

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, after all the things they said about "my daddy must of been a Chinaman" (I thought they meant made out of china, like a cup) because my eyes were so small and squinty. Then they would understand why I had never picked up a Southern accent, or spoke the common slang, and why I had to be forced to eat pigs' tails and snouts. Because I was really white 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 would hold a number-two pencil.

"What you looking ..." The minister's wife leaned toward me, her long yellow face full of sorry. She whispered, "I just come to tell you, it's Easter Day." I repeated, jamming the words together, "Ijustcometotellyouit'sEasterDay," as low as possible. The giggles hung in the air like melting clouds that were waiting to rain on me. I held up two fingers, close to my chest, which meant that I had to go to the toilet, and tiptoed toward the rear of the church. Dimly, somewhere over my head, I heard ladies saying, "Lord bless the child," and "Praise God." My head was up and my eyes were open, but I didn't see anything. Halfway down the aisle, the church exploded with "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" and I tripped over a foot stuck out from the children's pew. I stumbled and started to say something, or maybe to scream, but a green persimmon, or it could have been a lemon, caught me between the legs and squeezed. I tasted the sour on my tongue and felt it in the back of my mouth. Then before I reached the door, the sting was burning down my legs and into my Sunday socks. I tried to hold, to squeeze it back, to keep it from speeding, but when I reached the church porch I knew I'd have to let it go, or it would probably run right back up to my head and my poor head would burst like a dropped watermelon, and all the brains and spit and tongue and eyes would roll all over the place. So I ran down into the yard and let it go. I ran, peeing and crying, not toward the toilet out back but to our house. I'd get a whipping for it, to be sure, and the nasty children would have something new to tease me about. I laughed anyway, partially for the sweet release; still, the greater joy came not only from being liberated from the silly church but from the knowledge that I wouldn't die from a busted head.

If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat.

It is an unnecessary insult.

Chapter 1

When I was three and Bailey four, we had arrived in the musty little town, wearing tags on our wrists which instructed—"To Whom It May Concern"—that we were Marguerite and Bailey Johnson Jr., from Long Beach, California, en route to Stamps, Arkansas, c/o Mrs. Annie Henderson.

Our parents had decided to put an end to their calamitous marriage, and Father shipped us home to his mother. A porter had been charged with our welfare—he got off the train the next day in Arizona—and our tickets were pinned to my brother's inside coat pocket.

I don't remember much of the trip, but after we reached the segregated southern part of the journey, things must have looked up. Negro passengers, who always traveled with loaded lunch boxes, felt sorry for "the poor little motherless darlings" and plied us with cold fried chicken and potato salad.

Years later I discovered that the United States had been crossed thousands of times by frightened Black children traveling alone to their newly affluent parents in Northern cities, or back to grandmothers in Southern towns when the urban North reneged on its economic promises.

The town reacted to us as its inhabitants had reacted to all things new before our coming. It regarded us a while without curiosity but with caution, and after we were seen to be harmless (and children) it closed in around us, as a real mother embraces a stranger's child. Warmly, but not too familiarly.

We lived with our grandmother and uncle in the rear of the Store (it was always spoken of with a capital s), which she had owned some twenty-five years.

Early in the century, Momma (we soon stopped calling her Grandmother) sold lunches to the sawmen in the lumberyard (east Stamps) and the seedmen at the cotton gin (west Stamps). Her crisp meat pies and cool lemonade, when joined to her miraculous ability to be in two places at the same time, assured her business success. From being a mobile lunch counter, she set up a stand between the two points of fiscal interest and supplied the workers' needs for a few years. Then she had the Store built in the heart of the Negro area. Over the years it became the lay center of activities in town. On Saturdays, barbers sat their customers in the shade on the porch of the Store, and troubadours on their ceaseless crawlings through the South leaned across its benches and sang their sad songs of The Brazos while they played juice harps and cigarbox guitars.

The formal name of the Store was the Wm. Johnson General Merchandise Store. Customers could find food staples, a good variety of colored thread, mash for hogs, corn for chickens, coal oil for lamps, light bulbs for the wealthy, shoestrings, hair dressing, balloons, and flower seeds. Anything not visible had only to be ordered.

Until we became familiar enough to belong to the Store and it to us, we were locked up in a Fun House of Things where the attendant had gone home for life.

Each year I watched the field across from the Store turn caterpillar green, then gradually frosty white. I knew exactly how long it would be before the big wagons would pull into the front yard and load on the cotton pickers at daybreak to carry them to the remains of slavery's plantations.

During the picking season my grandmother would get out of bed at four o'clock (she never used an alarm clock) and creak down to her knees and chant in a sleep-filled voice, "Our Father, thank you for letting me see this New Day. Thank you that you didn't allow the bed I lay on last night to be my cooling board, nor my blanket my winding sheet. Guide my feet this day along the straight and narrow, and help me to put a bridle on my tongue. Bless this house, and everybody in it. Thank you, in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen."

Before she had quite arisen, she called our names and issued orders, and pushed her large feet into homemade slippers and across the bare Iye-washed wooden floor to light the coal-oil lamp.

The lamplight in the Store gave a soft make-believe feeling to our world which made me want to whisper and walk about on tiptoe. The odors of onions and oranges and kerosene had been mixing all night and wouldn't be disturbed until the wooded slat was removed from the door and the early morning air forced its way in with the bodies of people who had walked miles to reach the pickup place.

"Sister, I'll have two cans of sardines."

"I'm gonna work so fast today I'm gonna make you look like you standing still."

"Lemme have a hunk uh cheese and some sody crackers."

"Just gimme a couple them fat peanut paddies." That would be from a picker who was taking his lunch. The greasy brown paper sack was stuck behind the bib of his overalls. He'd use the candy as a snack before the noon sun called the workers to rest.

In those tender mornings the Store was full of laughing, joking, boasting and bragging. One man was going to pick two hundred pounds of cotton, and another three hundred. Even the children were promising to bring home fo' bits and six bits.

The champion picker of the day before was the hero of the dawn. If he prophesied that the cotton in today's field was going to be sparse and stick to the bolls like glue, every listener would grunt a hearty agreement.

The sound of the empty cotton sacks dragging over the floor and the murmurs of waking people were sliced by the cash register as we rang up the five-cent sales.

If the morning sounds and smells were touched with the supernatural, the late afternoon had all the features of the normal Arkansas life. In the dying sunlight the people dragged, rather than their empty cotton sacks.

Brought back to the Store, the pickers would step out of the backs of trucks and fold down, dirt-disappointed, to the ground. No matter how much they had picked' it wasn't enough. Their wages wouldn't even get them out of debt to my grandmother, not to mention the staggering bill that waited on them at the white commissary downtown.

The sounds of the new morning had been replaced with grumbles about cheating houses, weighted scales, snakes, skimpy cotton and dusty rows. In later years I was to confront the stereotyped picture of gay song-singing cotton pickers with such inordinate rage that I was told even by fellow Blacks that my paranoia was embarrassing. But I had seen the fingers cut by the mean little cotton bolls, and I had witnessed the backs and shoulders and arms and legs resisting any further demands.

Some of the workers would leave their sacks at the Store to be picked up the following morning, but a few had to take them home for repairs. I winced to picture them sewing the coarse material under a coal-oil lamp with fingers stiffening from the day's work. In too few hours they would have to walk back to Sister Henderson's Store, get vittles and load, again, onto the trucks. Then they would face another day of trying to earn enough for the whole year with the heavy knowledge that they were going to end the season as they started it. Without the money or credit necessary to sustain a family for three months. In cotton-picking time the late afternoons revealed the harshness of Black Southern life, which in the early morning had been softened by nature's blessing of grogginess, forgetfulness and the soft lamplight.

From the Paperback edition.

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What People are saying about this

James Baldwin
This testimony from a black sister marks the beginning of a new error in the minds and hearts 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 poeple in books were more real than the people one saw everyday, had I found myself so moved...Her portrait is a biblical study of life in the midst of death.
Oprah Winfrey
Maya Angelou's autobiography was the first book I ever read that made me feel my life as a colored girl growing up in Mississippi deserved validation. I loved it from the opening lines.
Oprah Magazine

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 493 reviews.
Cassidy54 More than 1 year ago
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.
kiwiTA More than 1 year ago
Typically I read articles on individuals rather than autobiographies - they seem self promoting and long (to me). This reads more like fiction but gives you the idea of where one of America's finest writers was born from. I have always had high regard for Ms. Angelou. Not being an avid reader in the past, I have resolved myself to a New Years resolution to one book a month. She was January and a wonderful way to start.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Sarah_C85 More than 1 year ago
The book started out very interesting, but towards the end, I had trouble staying interested. I read this book without having any prior knowledge of Maya Angelou's life, aside from the fact that she was a poet. I was quite surprised by the amount of issues she had to overcome growing up, and am happy that she is out there writing about her experiences and essentially telling people that it's OK to be awkward.
sparrow65 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and the next three installments -- they are well written, honest, and strong. Ms. Angelou shows her great talent and her patience, persistence and strong determination to make something of her life - and in light of her childhood experiences - it is inspiring. I was not so enamored with Traveling Shoes - the story of her experiences in Africa. I felt that this last book lost the flavor of hope and inspiration and spent a great deal of time whining about lack of acceptance. To go to another country and expect that they are going to welcome you with open arms no matter what the circumstances is just plain unrealistic. Anyway - again I recommend the first four books highly and the last book not at all.
volley4 More than 1 year ago
I personally thought Maya Angelou’s first autobiography of the series was great, definitely worth three stars. I believe that Maya really did achieve all of her goals throughout her book; she thought back and told the truth about everything she went through, no matter how disturbing the facts were. Maya writes in a very descriptive way that helps you see things clearly in your mind. I feel the book is clearly written, but you first have to understand how Maya’s writing works. Often the author jumps back and forth in the story, making it harder to comprehend completely. In other words, Angelou doesn’t go in chronological order so you have to keep track of a lot of information in the book. I found it hard to keep some topics straight, so I found myself re-reading many sections. Also, she writes in a neutral tone that is sometimes hard to see her first reactions to the events that occur. As I got comfortable to Angelou’s writing, I could understand her thoughts more clearly. In the book’s final pages, Angelou leaves us off with a cliffhanger. Maya finally has her baby, but that is really all we know. I see this in both a good and bad way. She leaves the readers to make the most crucial decision of all; do you, the reader, think she will be able to care for a baby at age 16? Suddenly, the book ends with a feeling that it’s missing something big. Throughout the story, the readers have been able to learn everything about Maya but when the baby comes we are left with unanswered questions. The readers are left to make a hard decision. There are a lot of negative factors to a teen pregnancy, but there but also up-sides to ponder about too. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is focused on a young girl being raped and her life after that awful experience, segregation, and racism. The readers are able to see many more topics throughout the story, but I thought that these topics were definitely the most reoccurring. This story is not only retelling Maya Angelou’s early life but sends out important messages that are still relatable today. After being hurt multiple times, Maya knows that you have to do what you believe is right. It also tells us that no one is perfect; life is actually about making mistakes. Maya overcomes all her problematic situations and begins to live her new life guilt-free. She realizes that sometimes believing in yourself is better than anything else, which is an excellent message to send out to readers. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an inspiring read that I would recommend to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worth th read. I love her books
DonnaSG1 More than 1 year ago
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.
DanielaRhodes More than 1 year ago
Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a memoir of the prejudice she faced growing up as a black girl in the South. She writes this “tale of classic proportions” to shine a light on the injustices she faces while growing up. Facing hardship after hardship, Maya is eventually able to conquer the plights in her life through the unorthodox method of maternity. Maya is able to achieve her ambitions by using the strength gained from her experiences. With a few hundred pages Maya makes the spiritual, emotional, and physical transition from a naïve young girl to a mature young woman. By sharing her experiences with the world, Maya shines a light on the injustices she faces growing up. The author uses her own thoughts and ideas to tell the story instead of relaying events. "If you ask a Negro where he's been, he'll tell you where he's going" (Chapter 25). She gives her take on the proceedings that are taking place around her. The outcome is a wonderfully written story from the innocent perspective of a child. Maya’s relationship with her brother often puzzled me. The most popular boy sticking up for his younger sister? To me that seemed like an illogical exception to a classic stereotype. However Maya’s entire life has been about defying the odds, so it only makes sense that her relationship with her brother would be too. I found the love and compassion shared between them was unequal to anything I had experienced before. They shared everything with each other, their secrets, feelings, and lives. I believe Maya’s brother was her rock that supported her through her life. His confidence in her allowed her to pursue the dreams she had never thought to accomplish. I was touched and inspired by the ending of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. With Maya entering motherhood, she is unsure of her abilities to care for her baby. She is afraid for the wellbeing of her child. Her mother’s confidence in her helps her to realize her abilities. "See, you don't have to think about doing the right thing. If you're for the right thing, then you do it without thinking." In my opinion this is a perfect way to conclude her story, Maya Angelou is a phenomenal writer who
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is a coming of age story written by Maya Angelou. Heart-wrenching and powerful, Maya lends her readers a glimpse of her early years all the way up until she turns seventeen. Right from the start Maya presents a strong outlook on what life was like in South America for black people. The story starts when a 3-year old Maya is sent to live with her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. Her brother, Bailey, age 4, accompanies her. Later, they are sent to live with their mother in St. Louis, Missouri. While there, Maya is raped by her mother’s boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. Her mother and Bailey eventually find out and confront Mr. Freeman in court. Maya and Bailey eventually return to Stamps. When Maya is 13, she and her family move to Oakland, California. Then then move to San Francisco, California when Vivian, the person they now live with, marries Daddy Clidell. Maya decides to go live with her father for the summer and is abused by his girlfriend. She later runs away and starts living with a group of homeless teenagers in a junkyard. After a month, she returns to San Francisco. The book ends with her becoming a mother at age 17.  Some of the main themes of the book are racism, segregation, and acceptance. Time and time again, Maya and her family are constantly abused by the white people in the community for being black. One example of this is Maya being called by a different name when she goes to work for a white woman. By calling her a different name, the woman ignores Maya’s black heritage and identity. Eventually, Maya is fired for breaking some valuable china dishes and her employer starts calling her Maya again.  One thing that I really liked about this book is the title. The title really reflects on the content of the story and gives the reader an idea of what the book is about. The bird could be Maya or the whole black community. The cage could represent all the racism and unacceptance that the bird is trapped by. She knows why the caged bird sings because she is a caged bird. She is caged by her past and the segregation going on in the southern United States.  I think that this book is a must read for all Americans. This book really goes into a lot of detail on her struggling to find acceptance and recovering from her past and trying to make her own identity. Anyone who is currently struggling with issues such as these or has struggled with them should definitely read this. Another good book like this is “The Four Year Old Parent,” written by Shane Salter. That book is also about finding acceptance and identity. Overall, I give this book a 5/5. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing Review “I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing” in my opinion was a very puzzling book, and I somewhat liked it. At the beginning of the book, it was difficult for me to concentrate on reading, because it was so dull. As the book continued I got more interested in the book, because it started to gain in excitement. This book takes place in Stamps, Arkansas, and shares the true story of Maya Angelous childhood during the 1930s. Maya and her older brother, Bailey, moved from place to place as children. When Maya was 3 and Bailey was 4 they moved in with their grandma, because their mother and father had just got a divorce. As years past by, Maya, and Bailey moved back in with their mother and their mother’s boyfriend. When Maya turned 8, a tragic event happened that changed her and, her family’s life forever. Maya was terrified after this tragic event, but then something good happens to help her overcome her worries of the tragic event. Towards the end of the book, Maya is 16 years old, and becomes curious about her sexuality, and then she experiments her sexuality by searching for boyfriends. When Maya finally finds a man she believes she has strong feelings for she does something very stupid, and ends up with regret in my opinion for the rest of her life. Race and appearance played a big part in Maya’s childhood. Maya grows up in this environment where the white women are defined as beautiful, long blond luscious hair and, blue eyes. Maya always thought that the blacks are ugly, and always will be. Maya likes to call her appearance the “black ugly dream”. Segregation also was a big theme or message in the book. In Stamps, Arkansas segregation meant that the black’s social, economic, and political status or quality was lower than the whites. The policy of segregation meant that, the blacks had boundaries on their lives, never will be able to get a well-paying job, and won’t be able to blend in well with the whites. This book was very difficult to understand, and it had very poor detailing through-out the book, but had a good story line. I actually liked the fact that Maya went through all of these horrifying events as a child, and now she grew up to be a very strong and open-minded women. Her story was really inspiring, and tells people that if they have gone through these problems, they are not the only ones. The author really wanted to get the point across that even if your life has these rough patches, you can always work through it. I believe that someone should read this book, because it has some underlying life lessons within the story line. This is my first book that I have read by the author Maya Angelou so, I personally cannot recommend any other books to read by her. (Word count-498)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I laughed, I cried, I moaned, I gasped over and over again. Having grown up during the civil rights movement, I knew some of the struggles that African-American women faced during the early 20th century, but I was absolutely shocked by the degradation, abuse, ignorance, and pain that Maya Angelou had to overcome in her teens. She tells the story beautifully, and she does overcome, but, from my point of view, her spiritual survival is nothing less than a miracle.
alysonshay More than 1 year ago
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Review I Know Why the Caged Birds Sings is an autobiography written by Maya Angelou. In the book Maya retells her childhood of loneliness and feeling ugly and out of place. Her parents left her and her brother, Bailey, at a young age. She grows up in Arkansas thinking her parents are both dead and calling her grandmother “Momma”. Around Christmas one year  her parents send her and Bailey presents. Maya was not happy, she was surprised. This whole time she thought they were dead, she now knew they chose to leave. Her father comes a year later to Stamps. They felt distant from him, he was a stranger to them. Soon after he had to return to California. He asked Maya and Bailey if they would come with him. Momma is disappointed but they go with him. When they get to California, they go to their mother. She was beautiful and elegant...like Bailey. Maya was sexually molested by her mother’s boyfriend. All of the loneliness Maya had felt made her feel this was morally okay. She didn’t know any better. All the harsh childhood experiences she endured makes you wonder why she still sings. Her childhood made her grow stronger in character which is why the caged bird still sings. I liked how graphic the book was. It made me feel like I was there with her. I loved the old southern dialect of the book. One thing I didn’t like was that I felt Maya went on and on, on one subject. I recommend people read this book because it was interesting and it keeps you intrigued because you would have never thought Maya would have went through some of these things knowing how successful she is.
KolbyLee More than 1 year ago
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Book Review I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is an autobiography written by Maya Angelou. Maya is growing up and is having a rough life. Her parents left her when she was a small child and she grew up with her brother bailey.They grew up in a small town in Arkansas. They were all they had a one point of their life but, then their mom came back. Her mom usually had a nice man over but little did she know that the man had rapped Maya. Maya didn't want to tell her mom because they man had threatened to kill her brother Bailey if anyone had figured out. Maya stayed strong throughout her life and had some of her ups and downs but she managed to get through the hard times. I liked this book because it gave the true definition of a strong person. Maya had to be strong her whole life with the obstacles that were thrown her way but, she managed to come out on top and live a strong and healthy life. i recommend this book because it is a good book that talks a lot about God and just has a main focus on things that you need to be focused on to keep you going through life. This book is really inspirational and teaches readers to stay strong and focused and everything will be alright. Through all the hard times being treated bad and hold to a certain point she stayed strong and made herself the bigger person, She was a girl who was locked up for most of her life but still kept a smile on her face, that is why the caged bird sings.
Chrissy_W More than 1 year ago
Unforgettable Did I enjoy this book: In honor of the recently departed poet, artist, singer, activist, and beautiful soul, Maya Angelou, I’m offering this review of one of my all time favorite stories. I Know Why the Caged Bird sings is unforgettable. Angelou doesn’t just tell stories she changes lives. She touches souls. And she reshapes our nation for the better. In this book she deals with literacy, persistence, personal dignity, and success against impossible odds. I love how she tells a story of survival without anger, blame, or excuses. It’s hard to comprehend how she’s able to write with such honesty about topics that, when this book was released, were hardly spoken of in private much less public. "While I was writing the book, I stayed half drunk in the afternoon and cried all night.” Yet she kept writing. And readers of all generations are better off because she did. God bless you, Maya Angelou. Rest in peace. Would I recommend it: Absolutely. As reviewed by Belinda at Every Free Chance Book Reviews.
Amington More than 1 year ago
I first read this book when I was a teen. Now MY teen is going to read it for school this year. Maya Angelou's literary voice, whether it be through prose, poetry, her acting, or her personal appearances has always resonated with me. I have nothing in common with her, yet I hear what she is saying and I get what she is saying. I have nothing but good things to say about this book. In the current social climate we live in, this book about being born a person of color in the South and then moving elsewhere where she grew into womanhood, has a strong, solid message.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I highly reccomend this book to older readers, I say at least 15. There are parts in the book that I read and I was shocked. She is very descriptive and uses code words for words that would have been ofensive to some people to read. She uses words that only older readers would understand. She uses words like "pocketbook" and "his thing" to describe what's going on. If you don't have any idea what those words stand for, do NOT read this book! I love it but it is not for the faint of heart. :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Her tribute to her life is amazing i love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had this book on my reading list for several years. I wish I would have read it sooner. Beautifully written while providing a vivid historical account of an America we have left behind but will never forget.
Hollywood72 More than 1 year ago
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou is a touching story that reaches all ages. This story should be read because it stirs the hearts of those that have never been victims of struggle, and strengthens the hearts of those that have overcome lifelong battles of pain. I believe Maya’s life is a heartbreaking story with a message about conquering her weaknesses that ends in Maya finding strength and self confidence in herself. Everyone can learn from this message of hope. At times, this inspiring story brought tears to my eyes. Other times, it made me angry and unhappy. In every situation I’d feel what I think Maya wanted me to feel. This story is one that I’d read again if I’m ever feeling like I can’t take anymore of life’s challenges. I’d also suggest this story to any young adult coming of age, especially ones that enjoy inspiration and emotionally complicated stories. I think Maya’s purpose for writing this story is to encourage others to overcome themselves and their trials. You must read this story, not only for enjoyment, but hope and motivation. Read it so you can have a reason to not let challenges ruin you but make you better for experiencing them, just as Maya did.
CountryMusic4Ever More than 1 year ago
It is very inspiring to read a story filled with great triumphs over tough struggles. Maya Angelou confronts and overcomes racism, rape, poverty, sexuality, and teen pregnancy. The one problem with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the structure and organization. Angelou jumps right into her storytelling, retelling her memories in a hard-to-follow chronological order. There is a new story every chapter. This can be confusing for the reader. It is very hard to begin, but by the end of the book there is a sense of wholeness and satisfaction. The reader realizes that without knowing it, they have developed a longing to see Maya succeed. This novel is a roller coaster of emotions. It brings the reader from the darkest moments of Maya Angelou’s life to a time where she takes control of her own destiny. However, it is hard to follow at times. The reader can become lost in the sudden jump between events. Nonetheless, Maya Angelou’s heart and soul are revealed as she ventures back to her “lost years”. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an inspiring and highly recommended novel that can lift anyone’s spirits.
ROIDS More than 1 year ago
In I Know Why The Caged Bird sings, Marguerite who is the main character experiences a hard life growing up from not fitting in to not knowing  who she  really is. It takes place mainly in Stamps, Arkansas during the 1940’s where as a child she experiments Rape, Disloyalty, and Racism. she is so overwhelm by everything that is going on in her life and tries to find a way out. At the end she finds herself, but not  in a good situation. she ends up moving to california with her mother, and experiments pregnancy at a young age.  I recommend I Know Why The Caged Bird sings to high school students and up only because of the graphics this book holds. What I like about the book is it tells about the struggle of an young African-American girl who really hasn't experiment the world and ends up getting  everything thrown at her at once. From experimenting rape, and pregnancy at an young age. others should read it because it can helps someone who experiment the same thing she experiments, to find a way  for them to overcome the problem. also knowing the life African-Americans experiment with racism and how they reacted. 
emma_swag More than 1 year ago
The novel, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou was about a black girl named Marguerite. The novel took place in Stamps, Arkansas during the civil rights period. Marguerite had many encounters of racism. Marguerite always compared herself to others and never seemed to be happy with herself. She also deals with rape and sexually harassed beginning when she was only 8 years old. She also deals with thinking she is a lesbian and tries to conquer that. This novel depicts a girl trying to find who she is but racism, her image, sexism and sexual harassment seemed to stand in her way. I liked this book, I thought it gave insight to real problems. However I did find some parts made me feel uncomfortable. There were many sexually explicit passages that were very graphic. I think if you can handle those kinds of things then go ahead but not if that stuff negatively influences you. I think girls can identify with her when she struggles with body image and learn from her way to find herself. I recommend this book however it is a personal preference and what you can handle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For the banned book project I read the novel Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. In the novel you meet the families of Maya and how they impacted her life. She has one family in Stamps and one in St. Louis. Her family in Stamps was not her real family, they were the people she knew as family until she first visited st. Louis. There she met her real family and some of their friends. At eight years old she was raped twice by her moms boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. Going back and forth between visiting in Stamps and in St. Louis Maya watched everyone around her change and grow up as she grew up her self. Throughout the novel I read about how segregation and the wars going on around her made her realize how society really was. At the end of the novel Maya is sixteen years old and gives birth to a baby boy. Overall I liked the book. Although there were some passages I was iffy about when I was reading; after reading I realized while those parts were in the book. They are part of her story, they make it the way it is. After all the book is about the life of Maya and everything that happened to her from the time she was eight years old till the time she was sixteen years old. I would completely recommend the book. Only to the appropriate audience. Only to those who could actually read it and be mature about it and understand that everything from the first word on the first page to the last world on the last page is true. I recommend it because those who read it can understand and learn more about segregation and the beginning of the wars and how it affected everyone around. Also because it helps the reader to be more prepared for the real world, it let’s you know some of what is out there. It helps you to become more aware of your surroundings.