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

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  141,928 ratings  ·  2,954 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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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
Dawn
I read this book because my teenage son was going to be required to read it in his English class at school. I did not want to read the book because I was aware of its content. But I felt it necessary in order to be able to talk to the teacher about my objections. So I did not like this book. My degree in Comparative Literature enables me to recognize some literary value in Caged Bird, as well as historical and social value. I believe Maya Angelou is a powerful and talented writer. I admire some...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.

When Maya turned three, she and her brother, Bailey, went to live with her grandmother...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
Arthur Graham
Mar 23, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Neo
I didn’t hear about Maya Angelou until she recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of US President Bill Clinton in 1993. So when I read her memoir more than 15 years later, I was amazed at the kind of life she had endured and how she overcame her inferiority complex, trauma and racism, to become what she is now, a self-possessed, dignified young woman, and a multi-awarded poet and author, and playwright. I have read fictions and stories about the origin of slavery of Negro...more
Sandra Lawson
This is a book I've been meaning to read for years, and I wasn't disappointed. Maya Angelou writes with intelligence and a growing view of her younger self and her place in the world. Her style matures as she portrays the young Marguerite growing older and learning about the world. From the age of three until the tale ends in her teens she describes a life of challenges, but is never defeated. She makes her choices (not always the best ones) and creates her own story of dignity as she rises abov...more
Thomas
Maya Angelou's historic and memorable autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings deserves its acclaim. She details her experience from the age of three to the peak of her adolescence at 16, with several themes woven in, such as the overcoming of trauma, escaping the confines of racism, the importance of family, and more. To me, this book functioned as both a mirror of my own childhood and a window to another individual's completely different coming of age.

I discovered that to achieve perfect...more
Tiana
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, is a autobiography. It is about a girl named Margurite, growing up and dealing with discrimination and racism in the south. Also dealing with rape, molestation and growing up through hardships as a child. She has to move to Arkansa to live with her grandmother, and there tradgic events happen. Her internal conflict is keeping her being raped a secret from her family, because she does not want her family to be killed. Her external conflict is bein...more
Donna
Last week I was teaching possessive pronouns to a group of teenagers. The context was family. Giving an example, I used the sentence "Mounir is my husband". An Arabic name provoked a lot of questions from my Saudi students. On finding out that my husband was Moroccan, one girl commented "I hate Morocco" quite vehemently. Now,I was struck dumb at first, but after regaining my composure I asked her calmly: "Why?"

"I don't know" was her answer.

"Have you been to Morocco?" I asked with some gesticulat...more
Stacy
I know this probably makes me a terrible person, but I was NOT a fan of this book! I think a part of me didn't like it because a former student of mine suggested it to me (she's only 14 years old!!!). I spent most of the book thinking how terrible it would be to have a 14 year old read those things. She was required to read it for her SEVENTH grade English class!?!?! It seemed completely inappropriate to me for a 14 year old read about an even younger person being molested (and thinking it was o...more
Emilie
Jun 04, 2010 Emilie rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Emilie by: My grandmother
Shelves: usa, autobiography
I raced through the first four volumes of Maya Angelou's autobiography (along with this one, "Gather Together in my Name", "Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry like Christmas" and "Heart of a Woman"), a volume a day. Angelou's prose style is perfect, but these books are really worth reading because of her honesty and warmth.

Her portrait of her young life in Stamps, Arkansas, is painted with all the immediacy and urgency of childhood, but as an adult revisiting the memory, she sensitively inte...more
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Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Ann Johnson April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, is 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 no...more
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