I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou's Autobiography #1)

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  164,542 ratings  ·  3,691 reviews
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, Mayais attacked by a man any times her age-and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years...more
Paperback, 291 pages
Published November 1993 by Bantam Books (first published January 12th 1970)
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Community Reviews

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Brad Byers
I really enjoyed this book. It was required reading for a University course I took on Adolescent Literature.

This book has been placed on banned book lists by needlessly close-minded people for it's real life content.

The book tastefully addresses issues of molestation, rape, racism. But it does so within the context of the trials and tribulations of growing up as well.

The book presents things in a direct and extremely vivid fashion, but it is not garishly or needlessly graphic. These are issues...more
Brian

My mother could never really speak to me about the abuse she suffered as a little girl - the closest we came to talking about her experiences occurred when we read this painful and important book together. I imagine that Maya's book has allowed countless women who have suffered similar horrors an opportunity to know they will never be alone in their pain. And perhaps, like my mother, an opportunity to begin to heal by sharing their story with a loved one.

RIP, Maya. Your words have made this plan...more
Arthur Graham
Sep 14, 2014 Arthur Graham marked it as to-read
I must confess that I've read precious little Angelou in my time, but I'll never forget the day she tipped me $20.

It was some random gray day in Marquette, Michigan, must've been the winter of '00, and I was washing dishes as usual at the downtown Landmark Inn. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, "hey, there's a VIP coming in, put on your bellboy hat and head out front." I didn't put on my bellboy hat because I didn't have one — just the same dirty, drenched apron I wore every day in tha...more
Dawn
May 2014: I wrote this review a year and a half ago. It is written from the perspective of a parent who cares about what her teenage children read in school. I hope it may be useful to other parents, teens, and anyone else who cares about content and wants to make informed decisions about what they read. I received mostly negative reactions to my review, but also a few positive comments which encouraged me. After a year of dealing with it all, I wanted to be done and move on, so I closed the com...more
Madeline
I could write a mean-spirited review about how much I dislike reading books written by Empowered Women (capitalization is necessary. Extra points if author capitalizes Black but not white) and how the story of an Empowered Woman was made even less enjoyable by Angelou's blatant racism for nearly the entire book (there's a lovely paragraph about how "whitefolks" were regarded as non-humans by the black community in Angelou's small Southern town. Switch the races and the majority of the book sound...more
Jami
In her nonfiction autobiography, Maya Angelou describes her life from her young girl life up to the birth of her first child at age 16. The book drew me in at the very beginning because of the talent Angelou has with language, scenery, and loading the moment with emotion. Another intense draw for me was the fact that it is a nonfiction book. I was constantly thinking I can’t believe she had these experiences.

(SPOILER ALERT)When Maya turned three, she and her brother, Bailey, went to live with h...more
Stephanie
Jan 11, 2009 Stephanie rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: noone
Recommended to Stephanie by: Classics Bookclub at 5 Minutes for Books Blog
Shelves: 2009, classics, memoir
When I picked up I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou I knew two things:

1. The author is friends with Oprah and the Clintons.
2. The book is considered a classic.

The book is mostly set in the tiny town of Stamps, Arkansas. I lived much of my childhood within an hour's drive of Stamps so I found that detail very interesting.

The account of life as a Negro (the term Ms. Angelou uses) in rural Arkansas was fascinating. Some of it brought to mind memories of my own childhood (though I am "l...more
Caris
Maya Angelou has been on my mental to-read list for years. It all started one day when I helped some guy at the library find her books on the shelf. He gratefully gathered all of them up- books and audios, poetry and prose- and set off to the distant recesses of the building to enjoy them.

The specific place he went to enjoy them, apparently, was the children’s restroom, as that’s where I found all the covers torn off and unceremoniously stuffed into a trash can. I dutifully pulled them out, one...more
Paul
The first of Angelou's series of autobiographies and a powerful account of growing up and coming of age in 1930s/40s America. In the background and foreground are racism, violence against women and the problem of identity. It is written with clarity and great force; there is no hiding from what you are reading.
It would be superfluous to sum up the book or outline its contents; it should be read. So I will just add a few thoughts and reflections.
Beacuse of the strong brother/sister relationship,...more
Rowena
I'm quite ashamed that it's taken me this long to read this book. Maya Angelou is so inspirational to many people so reading about her childhood and adolescence was really special. I found her autobiography tragic and also hopeful at the same time. Things have changed a lot since Angelou's childhood, such as segregation, and colourism in the black community (to an extent). The fact that she went through that period of history and is alive to see the first Black president in US history is just wo...more
Carmen
Jun 16, 2014 Carmen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Carmen by: School
Shelves: non-fiction
RE-READ: 06/16/2014

This is my third time reading this book.

I think that this is an important book. Angelou relates her experiences of growing up black in America. This book covers birth-16.

Even though at times this book is really painful to read (when she's raped at age 8; when she goes to the white dentist), I think it is important to read it anyway. If this were a novel I wouldn't say that. I believe you should just ignore or not read fiction books that you don't enjoy reading. (I adore Anna...more
JG (The Introverted Reader)
The first volume in Maya Angelou's autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is not an easy read. It picks up when she's three and her brother is four and they're being shipped from California to Arkansas--alone on a train. They live with their paternal grandmother for years. Maya writes poignantly and heart-breakingly, but never with self-pity, about life as an African-American girl in a segregated South.

I'm having a hard time writing this review. I occasionally run into this problem with...more
jzhunagev
May 21, 2011 jzhunagev rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: to those raring to read African-American Literature, this is a good start!
Recommended to jzhunagev by: the "Voice"
Defying the Odds
(A Book Review of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)


The first volume in a five part nonfiction autobiography series, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings chronicles Maya Angelou’s coming-of-age in the segregated South during the 1930’s.

“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.”


Told in the first person reflective prose, the multi-talented Angelou re...more
Invidia
Hmm, congratulations to Ms. Angelou on braving struggles most people wouldn't have survived. As she wrote, "The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance."

However, being a '90s child, the book was very anachronistic to me. I've appreciated Victorian novels tremendously, havin...more
Bev Hankins
"The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance."

That quote sums up the entire experience of reading Maya Angelou's honest, heart-breaking, and wonderfully written story of growing up black in the 30s and 40s. That she can make her story so real to someone who grew up white, m...more
Portia [nerd]
Spark notes has to be the best thing created. Every summer I was given a reading list and I hit sparks notes up like crazy. As I read on spark notes the stories was beyond boring and it never failed, until I spark noted the book I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou. As I read the first two chapters I was very interested in the book and decided that I needed to go to Borders as soon as possible. I always thought spark notes was just a major cheat sheet, now I know that I was just using...more
Chrissie
If I ask myself if I liked the time spent with the book, the honest answer is no. I cannot even give this 2 stars. For me it was not OK.

Please note that I respect the bravery of the woman who dared to write about her life as a child and through her teens, until she becomes a woman, and how she was sexually and psychologically exploited. At the book’s end, at the age of about seventeen she was a woman and an adult. Life had hardened her. I respect her, but I am not judging her when I give the bo...more
Brittney
Aug 10, 2009 Brittney rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: young ladies who need a lil guidance
Recommended to Brittney by: my 7th grade teacher
At last. I found a book that i can relate to. Im sure a few people don't want to hear any of my humble, sista preachin , negro spiritual talk , but i will pour my heart out for this book. Because it is my catcher in the rye. It is my inspiration. it warmed my heart and gave me a thirst for knowledge and reading. Everybody has that one book that changes there aura and the way they view the world. This was it for me. I can understand why this book would be not so enjoyable for a person who can no...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 25, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Nenette (I gave her a brand new copy as Christmas gift last month)
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Must Read Books Before I Die
Shelves: 1001-core, race
This is my first memoir written by an African-American woman and I like it. It's an easy read, totally devoid of steam-of-consciousness style that Miss Woolf (from my recent book before this), as Maya Angelou used first-person direct storytelling approach. However, it is not an easy-easy read because the plot is about racial struggle and it has all the depressing real-life incidents like rape at the age of 8, she and her brother being transported like animals, being abandoned by their parents tw...more
Shaun
I'm not someone who is usually attracted to memoirs/autobiographies. I'm not sure why since I've enjoyed the ones I've read...yet still I approach them with less enthusiasm than their fiction counterparts.

Maybe it's because I've often tried to forget my own childhood, exchanging it in my mind for something less dysfunctional, and thus I am leery of those who not only open their dark, messy closets but also invite all their neighbors over to take a tour.

I think Maya Angelou does just that, and p...more
Paul
Now that I've researched, read, and reviewed a number of banned and challenged books, I'm no longer surprised that writing about sex, particularly from a young woman's point of view, whips up fear and suppression. And there's plenty of sex in Maya Angelou's childhood memoir, starting with her rape, at the age of 9, by her mother's live-in boyfriend, continuing with her description of her mother's life as a prostitute, her adventures in Mexico while her father visits a whorehouse, her teen-aged f...more
Anna
I'm conflicted about this book. She is an amazing writer. I wasn't offended by the frankness of her telling of her rape and subsequent sexual experiences. I didn't feel her account was salacious but accurately reflected her limited understanding of what was going on. (I do agree with some of the reviewers on taking issue with whether or not this book is appropriate for younger readers.)

I don't admire her character. She is arrogant. I don't agree that black people are entitled to hate white peopl...more
Nan
Another read with the kid. I actually liked this one better than I thought. Angelou tends to be on the platitudinous side with her current writing and anyone who gets that much exposure from Oprah is bound to be a little obvious. But this, her first book, is really lovely. She's nicely descriptive and a keen observer of other people, which will change in her later work, when it becomes all about her her her (probably one reason Oprah's such a fan). Here, she gives you a rich portrait of growing...more
Carol
In this touching and tragic coming-of-age autobiography, Maya Angelou lays it all out there for everyone to see her challenging roller coaster of a life from age 3-16. While descriptively graphic in detail, the memoir also exhibits bits of humor in the narrative. I found Maya to be a kind, intelligent and courageous young girl despite her naïveté, and very fortunate to have a loving grandmother (Momma) and brother. Momma really was a tough ole bird too; the outcome of her encounter with Dentist...more
Alex
And this is the peril of not knowing anything about a book. Maya Angelou's autobiography starts out as a pleasant but fairly conventional memoir, and then suddenly blammo, an extremely traumatic thing happens, with very little warning, that I was in no way prepared for.

Which is probably just what her actual life was like, except not a book, so there's that.

Anyway, if you haven't read this yet, you now know more than I did. Brace yourself.

Aside from the extreme trauma: this is an absolutely stunn...more
Jessica
I chose this book for my Women in Literature course. My goal was to teach post-1960s memoirs by women, and to have at least half of the books on the syllabus be written by women of color, and boy, does it ever prove how far the publishing industry has to go when you begin looking for literary-quality memoir by women of color. The under-abundance of such books is shocking yet predictable, the age-old story of sexism and racism combined as a double whammy against women of color. Mostly it's depres...more
Dave Keays
It was definitely a view into a world I didn't know, and very many inspirational insights. However, I decided to not give it of the top ratings since she was the source of hatred and not inspiration. Most of the inspiration in the book came from her uncle Willie or her grandmother. More than once I felt like I was slowly walking through a pond of scum because of the hatred she spouted. I had to hold my nose and ignore the thick blue/green slime that made the other side of the stream seem much fa...more
HuhWhat
“I know why the caged bird sings” is Part 1 of Maya Angelou’s 5 part autobiographical series, and it flows effortlessly from her early childhood years spent living with her devout grandmother in rural Stamps, Arkansas to age 15; by which time she lives with her glamorous, larger than life mother in urban San Francisco.

Life hasn’t been very kind to her, on occasion it's been downright cruel, but with the love and support of her brother Bailey, her grandmother, and the friends she makes along th...more
Kirstine
The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.

I cannot deny the importance of this work, nor would I want to. It is in many ways a great work, and I applaud Maya Angelou for her honesty, and for the courage it must have taken, not only to write this book, but to have lived...more
Aries
Di Maya Angelou ho già in qualche modo parlato tempo fa, ma avevo ed ho ancora molto da scoprire su di lei.
Elemento fondamentale nella cultura black (e non) americana, letta nelle scuole, è uno di quei personaggi che, se chiedessi a chiunque o quasi in Italia, mi risponderebbe "chi?".
"I know why the caged bird sing" è la sua autobiografia.
Mi correggo, è la prima di una serie di autobiografie centrate su una parte specifica della sua vita, in questo caso i primi 15/16 anni.

Un libro intero dedicat...more
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Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Ann Johnson April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, was an American poet, memoirist, actress and an important figure in the American Civil Rights Movement. In 2001 she was named one of the 30 most powerful women in America by Ladies Home Journal. Maya Angelou is known for her series of six autobiographies, starting with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, (1969 which was n...more
More about Maya Angelou...
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