I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Posted November 22, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

Series: Maya Angelou's Biography #1
Publisher: Random House on November 1, 1969
Genre: Classics, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Target Age Group: Adult, New Adult, Young Adult
Representation: BIPOC, Black, Black Authors
Content Warnings: Abandonment, Homophobia, Pedophilia, Pregnancy, Racial Slurs, Racism, Rape

Rating: ★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads or buy the book at Bookshop.org

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” 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 (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) 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.


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a touching story of life for a Black girl growing up in the first half of the 20th century. Angelou faces racism in all different shades, and perseveres despite the world stacking everything it has against her. As this first chapter of her story unfolds, we see the influences around her that shaped her childhood and inspired her to become a determined young woman.

From a purely technical perspective, I had a hard time following this book. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings remains objectively an incredibly important memoir and should be read. It’s also a little cluttered with poetic musings that detract from the overall arc of the story. It’s also a book I would recommend picking up in its actual print form rather than as an audiobook. Well many audiobooks read by their original authors add a particular level of magic, Angelou’s reading is very much like someone reading a book aloud. It is palatable, but not exciting.

None of these things, you’ll know, detract from the overall quality of the book. I think Angelou‘s story is important, but the writing itself is not to my taste. There’s nothing wrong with the writing, and in fact, it is beloved by many and has been for decades. But it was this aspect that made the book a little bit more difficult for me to read then I’d like.

The content, when taken piecemeal, remains as powerful today as it did when the book was originally published. Through her eyes, we see her coming of age. We see what it was like to grow up as a Black woman not just in the South, but in the West and in the North. We see different levels of racism coming at her from different kinds of people. We witness the many different ways people around her react to the racism that they face every day, and what they do to feel alive despite the denial of their humanity. I find myself remembering individual vignettes much more clearly than the book as a whole. The particular stories that strapped to me were her toothache, and her brief period as a homeless runaway.

Then, beyond racism, we have the very heavy topic of rape and sexual assault. I must admit I’m not as well-read in books from the 1960s and 1970s as many others, but I do believe this is one of the first times that rape was called out so blatantly in a piece of popular literature. Even into the 2010s we fought to raise voices rape victims, so the fact that Angelou had the strength to share her story in a time where not only her race, but her gender would call her story into doubt is incredible.

An overall powerful memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is certainly a book that should be taught in schools and read independently. I will be the first person to admit the writing is a little difficult to digest, but the value of the content far outweighs any technical preferences in this case. If you haven’t read at least the first of Angelou’s memoirs, I recommend you look into it.

Topic

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Delivery

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pacing

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Personal Enjoyment

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Cohesiveness

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Research

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Narrator

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

No Bad Apples Here!

According to my research, this author has not written any problematic books, does not have a problematic history wherein they have (through intention or ignorance) insulted or hurt marginalized communities, and does not use their platform to speak out in hate against others, nor have they performed any known damaging or illegal acts. For now, I’m very pleased to encourage you to support this author and their works!

send me your thoughts

Do you enjoy enemy-to-lover romances?

If so, what is your favorite? If not, what type of romance do you like better?

Share with me in the comments!

stay magical amber

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