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

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  322,695 Ratings  ·  7,788 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, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Yea ...more
Paperback, 246 pages
Published November 1993 by Bantam Books (first published 1969)
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Erica I was assigned to read this book for the first time in 5th grade. It's age appropriate. I don't think it's inappropriate. It's not vulgar. It'…moreI was assigned to read this book for the first time in 5th grade. It's age appropriate. I don't think it's inappropriate. It's not vulgar. It' addresses REAL issues though. (less)
Jyothy M jaganathan It is available on too late for the answer though, I guess! :)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
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Arthur Graham
Nov 29, 2013 marked it as to-read
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
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
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it

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
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
I was sitting on a bench as I enjoyed the last bits of warm sunlight the dying summer was oozing out, scrutinizing a newspaper while calculatedly assuming a thoughtful gaze.

This little girl ran up to me. She said "Mister, mister, I know why the caged bird sings!"

I looked up from reading the financial news. "That's great kid. Now run along, can't you see I'm busy?"

I turned back to reading on how poorly the economy was doing. There’s nothing like reading bad news to feed the intellect.

"But miste
Jan 23, 2013 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
Bionic Jean
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bionic 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
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
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
Mohamed Al
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
قد نعتقد واهمين بأن العنصرية، كما تصورها الأفلام والروايات، ضد السود قد ولت وانتهت بعد أن أصبح الإنسان أكثر تحضرًا وتمدّنًا. وعليه قد يبدو الاطلاع على هذه الأفلام والروايات نوعًا من أنواع اللذة المازوخية التي يطيب لنا أن ننغمس فيها بين فينة وأخرى.

ولكننا في الحقيقة استطعنا التخلص من العنصرية كسلوك فقط، وهذا بدوره محل جدل، بينما لغتنا لا تزال تحافظ على تراث هائل من المفردات والتعابير العنصرية.

قرأت قبل سنوات كتاب "أبو قلم" للكاتب والمحامي الإماراتي أحمد أميري، وأدعو من لم يقرأه إلى الاطلاع عليه، وض
Perfect. A Masterpiece.

Hype Lit Bookclub.

Around the Year In 52 Books: A book inspired by real events.

2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge: A book with an animal in the title.
Jun 03, 2017 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.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, usa
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.

Oct 08, 2014 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
Oct 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 10, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Alex Farrand
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a coming of age autobiography of one of the most influential persons in the United States, Maya Angelou. The first time I heard of Maya Angelou was in middle school. We read the poem Phenomenal Woman, which is an strong, and gorgeous poem about a woman who is confident about herself, and more importantly the confidence of an African American woman. I haven't read much poetry in my life, but Maya Angelou held a special place in my soul since middle school. Why n ...more
Evelina | AvalinahsBooks
So this is awkward. You start a book that everyone knows so very well. The book is also written on this immensely important topic – rather, several of them. And as you trawl and trawl through it, you only come to realize that it's murdering you with how uninteresting it is to you.

(if the images down load, read this post on my blog)

Suuuure don't feel good. Hey, I've actually written a whole post about how to deal with this situation. So now I'll be following my own advice and still sharing th
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book for the Goodreads' book club Diversity in All Forms. If you would like to participate in the discussion here is the link:

This book is the first autobiography of Maya Angelou. Maya lived with her grandmother in a small Southern town. She had a lot of tough and terrible experiences at a young age. She was raped at eight years old by her mom's boyfriend and dealt with extreme discrimination. This book was an eye-opener and so honest. I look
Oct 08, 2012 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
destiny ☠ howling libraries
What can I even say? Maya Angelou was an incredible woman and this was such a poignant and moving window into the world of the difficulties that come with growing up as a black woman in the south. Maya underwent unspeakable horrors, yet found the strength she needed to overcome each and every one of them. <3 There were a few little essays here and there that I wasn't entirely sure "fit" the memoir as a whole, but for the most part, I was completely enraptured by her words.
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
“Children's talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.”

When Angelou grew up and discovered the alternatives, she did everything in her power to stop simply enduring and tell the world what was still happening in the supposedly emancipated American South (although not only the South).

Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, a Tony award and other honours, she became a much-loved and outspoken champion of her people, lauded by Oprah Winfrey in the introduction to the edition I read.
Feb 06, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it

“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
Jul 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Υπαρχουν καποιες βιογραφιες που ειναι απο αρκετα εως πολυυυυυ βαρετες.που καμια φορα διαβάζοντας τες αναρωτιεσαι γιατι θα επρεπε η ζωη του ταδε να γινει βιβλιο? η βιογραφια της Μαγια Αγγελου, δεν ανηκει σε αυτη την κατηγορια..η ζωη της απο την πρωτη μερα της υπαρξης της δεν ηταν ευκολη και αυτο γιατι γεννηθηκε με ενα χρωμα στο δερμα της σε μια εποχη που αυτο χαρακτηριζε την προσωπικοτητα των ανθρωπων και μαλιστα με τον χειροτερο τροπο..απίστευτες οι δοκιμασιες στις οποιες υποβληθηκε η συγγραφεας ...more
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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,
I had to read this in school in the 10th grade as a 15-year-old. I don't remember any parents throwing any fits about their kids having to read this book, but maybe it happened and I just didn't hear about it or was so wrapped up in my own internal dramas that I didn't recognize it happening around me. I remember reading this. I vaguely remember our classroom discussions.

I don't fully understand when parents throw fits about what their children read in school. As an adult, I understand it even l
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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

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Maya Angelou's Autobiography (7 books)
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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” 27828 likes
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