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

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  278,778 Ratings  ·  6,498 Reviews
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
...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published April 21st 2009 by Random House (first published 1969)
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Lily Gordon this may be too late, but oh well. I don't think your sixth grader should read this. There is a slightly graphic part that is quite upsetting and I…morethis may be too late, but oh well. I don't think your sixth grader should read this. There is a slightly graphic part that is quite upsetting and I would have been very disturbed by it at that age. (less)
Jyothy M jaganathan It is available on amazon.in.. too late for the answer though, I guess! :)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Arthur Graham
I must confess 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 that yea
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Brina
Maya Angelou was a poet and Nobel laureate who once gave an address at President Clinton's inauguration. Before she won her multitudes of awards and honors, Maya was raised in rural Stamps, Arkansas by her grandmother and uncle during the depression. First published in 1969 and now considered a modern classic, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings details Angelou's tumultuous childhood in poignant detail.

Born Marguerite Johnson and often called Ritie, Maya and her older brother Bailey were taken to l
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Brad
Mar 29, 2008 Brad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Brian
Jan 27, 2009 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
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Nandakishore Varma
Caged Bird

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.


The above poem by Maya Angelou (not
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Jean
Jan 07, 2014 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jean by: Donald
I have only ever given 5 stars to two autobiographies. One was written by a white English man; the other by a black American woman. On the surface you would think they could have very little in common, yet they do. They both have insight and compassion, which comes through in every sentence. They have both shown enormous courage in almost intolerable situations. In short, they have a common humanity. The white man is Terry Waite. The black woman, Maya Angelou.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by M
...more
Dawn
Jan 23, 2013 Dawn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Tulay
Jun 03, 2017 Tulay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Honest story, inspiring.

Childhood memories, living in Arkansas with grandmother, later in St. Louis with mother. Sexual abuse when she was eight years old. Brother Bailey, there love and support, hopes for the future. Back to San Francisco with mother, questioning herself about her sexuality. She was the first African-American to be hired to work on the the transportation department at the age of seventeen.
Frankie
Feb 12, 2017 Frankie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, 2017
Read along with a friend.

Enjoyed it but it was another coming of age story which I have read a lot recently. Got a little boring for me at times. Loved the writing but probs wont pick up the next couple of books.

Candi
The first of a series of autobiographies by Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is simultaneously heartrending and inspiring. This beautiful memoir of Ms. Angelou’s years as a child up to the age of seventeen exemplifies the resilience of a strong human spirit. Living with her grandmother, uncle, and brother in the segregated state of Arkansas during the 1930’s and early 1940’s, Maya, or Marguerite as she was called, was forced to deal with abandonment, racial prejudices, and grievous ...more
Nicole~
Oct 08, 2014 Nicole~ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a personal account told in the voice of a child cleverly reconstructed by an adult narrator. Through the observations of Maya, the child, comes a coming-of-age story - a social record of a young black female growing up in the 1930s. As an historical document 'Caged Bird' covers the bigotry, cruelty, oppression and the constant threat of death that constituted daily life in the South.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed fo
...more
Jami
Oct 06, 2007 Jami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 10, 2009 Stephanie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: noone
Recommended to Stephanie by: Classics Bookclub at 5 Minutes for Books Blog
Shelves: classics, 2009, 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
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Invidia
Feb 01, 2011 Invidia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001
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
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Willow
Jun 12, 2014 Willow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition



“What you looking at me for?
I didn’t come to stay…”


That’s how Maya Angelou’s beautifully written autobiography starts out…like a poem. Maya has a way of describing places so real that you’re there, basking in her nostalgia, your stomach growling because all the food sounds so good.

And the people, her family, are vibrant, distinct, and individual, as if Maya wrote a poem for each and every one of them. I kept thinking of Charles Dickens characters, yet these were real people Maya knew. She just
...more
Paul
Feb 06, 2011 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, banned-book
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
Paul
Apr 12, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
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,
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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
Carmen
Nov 17, 2013 Carmen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Carmen by: School
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
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
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
Carol
Oct 08, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Karina
Jan 09, 2015 Karina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
3.5 stars - A lot of wisdom and powerful memories are shared in these moving glimpses into Angelou's life and her writing is beautiful and captivating. I would have loved more though. Especially the last part of the book feels like a set up for what there was still to come.
Lata
Jan 27, 2017 Lata rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poc-author, 2017-read
So wonderfully told. A mix of naïveté, anger and wisdom, and every now and again, hilarity ("Preach it!") as Maya Angelou describes her young self and family from her early childhood to her teens and early motherhood.
Beautiful.
Apokripos
Dec 12, 2008 Apokripos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: to those raring to read African-American Literature, this is a good start!
Recommended to Apokripos 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
Bev
Mar 05, 2011 Bev rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
"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
martin eden
That book was on my TBR shelf for so long! I was afraid to read it, afraid not to like her writing style. (It's stupid, I know!) I know why the Caged Birds Sings is a precious little pearl! Maya Angelou is a super story teller! It was like sitting next to my chimney, curled under a blanket, listening to her anecdotes from her childhood (I really think that it's a book to be listened to): some were really funny, others hurt, some were sad, others joyful... Her childhood was incredible, she had to ...more
Jessica Darling
Throughout reading this book I was planning to give it a solid 3 stars. There is no doubt that Maya Angelou is a formidable woman who has endured more than most and has an important story to tell. But whilst I know this, and can acknowledge that this is an important and well written work, I felt held at a distance throughout most of this read.

There is no structured narrative. It jumps around through the early years of Maya's life, probably mirroring the erratic and unstable childhood she had en
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a good book, but I am not in love. It is a memoir of the author’s childhood and adolescence in the 1930s and 40s, in the segregated South and later in California. It is certainly a well-written book, with vividly drawn scenes – the reader must accept a certain amount of creative license, as the book is often novelistic in its dialogue and scene-setting, but that’s easy to accept because it is skillfully done. The characterization is strong too; in some memoirs, the supporting cast is fla ...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 ...more
More about Maya Angelou...

Other Books in the Series

Maya Angelou's Autobiography (7 books)
  • Gather Together in My Name
  • Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (Maya Angelou's Autobiography, #3)
  • The Heart of a Woman
  • All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes
  • A Song Flung Up To Heaven
  • Mom & Me & Mom

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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” 26528 likes
“Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.” 1269 likes
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