I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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, 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 liberates the reader into life simply because Maya Angelou confronts her own life with such a moving wonder, such a luminous dignity.”—James BaldwinIn this first of five volumes of autobiography, poet Maya Angelou recounts a youth filled with disappointment, frustration, tragedy, and finally hard-won independence. Sent at a young age to live with her grandmother in Arkansas, Angelou learned a great deal from this exceptional woman and the tightly knit black community there. These very lessons carried her throughout the hardships she endured later in life, including a tragic occurrence while visiting her mother in St. Louis and her formative years spent in California–where an unwanted pregnancy changed her life forever. Marvelously told, with Angelou’s “gift for language and observation,” this “remarkable autobiography by an equally remarkable black woman from Arkansas captures, indelibly, a world of which most Americans are shamefully ignorant.”

Nanci Arvizu, Writing and Reviews Editor

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3 Comments

  1. I agree this book is amazing. In a poetic, yet detatched way, Maya Angelou captures the heart of her struggles growing up female and Black during the Depression. Her style and description draw in the reader and keep her spellbound even during the most painful scenes. You feel deeply for the author and her little brother as they drift through their lives living for a bit of affection. Neglected by their divorced parents, Maya and her brother get sent to Arkansas at ages 4 and 5 to live with their grandma and handicapped…

  2. An adult review–and one teacher’s viewpoint May I tell you why I choose to have my ninth grade students read it? I have noticed a lot of reviews by young people, which I applaud, but an adult perspective might be helpful. 

  3. The early years of Maya Angelou “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou, is the first volume in this author’s extraordinary series of autobiographical narratives. “I Know…” begins with her childhood and takes us into her young womanhood. This book has, since its publication, become a beloved contemporary classic of African-American literature. 

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