Peachy's Reviews > I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
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Mar 04, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: abandonment, coming-of-age, disturbing, family, homelessness, inspirational, loss-of-innocence, made-into-movies, memoirs, non-fiction, spirituality, survival
Read from April 09 to 14, 2010

**Spoiler Alert



Oprah’s hero is a hero to many, to be sure



For those who haven’t read anything from Maya Angelou, then there’s a chance that you’ve at least seen her on Oprah sharing her eloquence and inspiration. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a memoir detailing her struggles bouncing back and forth between her lackadaisical parents in California, and her strict, god-fearing grandmother in the south.



Angelou’s descriptive prowess conjures up images which clarify feelings immaculately. “…seeing him in the flesh shredded my inventions like a hard yank on a paper chain.” And it is this very skill of hers that has had some people arguing that some of the scenes in the novel are too graphic or disgusting to be provided to teenage readers in school. I personally do not find the telling of her story as inappropriate in any way. It hurts to read these things, and you’ll of course be disgusted, but this is life. There is nothing gratuitous about her words. Countless young victims will take solace in knowing that someone as respected as Maya Angelou was able to endure such atrocities and still make it through life as a successful and inspirational woman. I think any typical young woman over sixteen is emotionally capable of hearing these types of truths in a reverent way.



There is one aspect of the story that has me a little concerned. The descriptions of Maya’s completely natural, yet harmful and damaging responses to the sexual abuse that she encountered – feeling guilty, shameful, pitying the abuser for his being punished, partaking in her silencing that was initiated by the adults in her life - leave me a little perplexed as to whether this book will help young people to realize that she is wrong in her feelings, and thus not feel that way about their own situations, or collude with Maya’s thoughts and feel the same way.



“There was an army of adults, whose motives and movements I just couldn't understand and who made no effort to understand mine.”



How damaging it must have been to Maya to be sent back to Stamps, as though she were being punished for the trauma yet again. All because these adults felt guilty about not protecting her, yet instead blamed her for making them feel uncomfortable because she would not speak to anyone but her brother. They were in fact the ones that encouraged the silencing of Maya when it was said that the incident should never be mentioned again. These types of responses to sexual traumas are the complete opposite of what is healthy for the victim, and I can only hope that any teens that are issued this book to read in school are properly informed of the truth. Children need to know - and Maya Angelou needed to know herself as a child - what happened to them is not their fault. I feel as though the end of the book needed to have a letter from Angelou to the reader outlining how she views the tragic events of her life now, as an adult.



Angelou’s understanding of the bigotry realized in her lifetime is admirable, and in my opinion the following quotation that takes place after her being snubbed by a white receptionist regarding a job inquiry at the transportation office in San Francisco, is one of the most accurate explanations for the ridiculous hatred black people had, and often still do have, to endure.



“The miserable little encounter had nothing to do with me, the ‘me’ of me, any more than it had to do with that silly clerk. The incident was a recurring dream, concocted years before by stupid whites and it eternally came back to haunt us all. The secretary and I were like Hamlet and Laertes in the final scene, where, because of harm done by one ancestor to another, we were bound to duel to the death. Also because the play must end somewhere.

I went further than forgiving the clerk, I accepted her as a fellow victim of the same puppeteer.”



If the haters of the world would acquiesce to this philosophy and move on with life instead of being so stubborn, then things would be a lot more peaceful and loving for us all.



Abandonment, molestation, family, and racism are but a few of the emotionally charged topics that Maya Angelou shares with us in this intimate, courageous and truly uplifting story of survival.



Some of Maya Angelou’s wise words:



"The world had taken a deep breath and was having doubts about continuing to revolve."



"I was a loose kite in a gentle wind floating with only my will for an anchor."



"She [mother] comprehended the perversity of life, that in the struggle lies the joy."





Check out more of my reviews at www.booksnakereviews.blogspot.com
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Reading Progress

04/09/2010 page 30
12.2% "The world had taken a deep breath and was having doubts about continuing to revolve."
04/10/2010 page 72
29.27% "There was an army of adults, whose motives and movements I just couldn't understand and who made no effort to understand mine."
04/13/2010 page 245
99.59% "I was a loose kite in a gentle wind floating with only my will for an anchor."
04/13/2010 page 261
100% "She [mother] comprehended the perversity of life, that in the struggle lies the joy."

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