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bella_1987

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

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This is the first in a six-part autobiography of poet, writer and public speaker- Maya Angelou. It covers the early story of her life from the age of 3 until she is seventeen.

I read the book when I was eleven when Ottlie either brought it or lend it to me. Some of the more graphic parts shocked me at the time and probably still would if I reread it but it is the first book that I ever loved and thought change my perspective on life.

I have still to get around to reading the other five in the series but I fully intent to as I found I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings mesmerizing.

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I read them all a few years ago and to be honest Caged Bird is the best of them, they tend to go a little down hill. It certainly held my attention more than the others in the series. In fact, it's the only one still up on my shelves.

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Blimey, did I give it to you when you were that young? I probably thought you were perfectly old enough to deal with it at the time, how my perspective has changed now I have children of my own!

Never knew it made such an impact on you. I have the others if you want to borrow them. Unfortunately I don't have IKWtCBS any more as I lent it to a friend some years back and haven't seen it since. She did join BGO, but I don't think she's been here for a while. Annelies, if you should read this, could I have my book back please?! :D

 

I seem to recall that they dipped, but I can't remember now at what stage. I have read them all, but probably about fifteen years ago now.

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I read it at school, I can't remember whether it was for A-levels or GCSEs. But I loved it then. I have reread it in the years since and also at least one of the others. I found it shocking too at first, I do remember that.

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Angelou, Maya.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

 

This first volume of Maya Angelou’s autobiography is a tribute to the human spirit’s triumph over adversity.  It tells the story of Maya’s childhood in the Arkansas and her adolescence in California, outlining her development as a thinking moral person. It’s very much about the ethos of slavery, of mind and body.  For those brought up in the tradition of liberal democracy it’s a revelation.  How does it feel to be ignored or treated as an object?  How do you react to oppression, constant insult and the ever present threat of violence?  

 

As an eight-year-old Maya is raped by her mother’s boyfriend, the ironically named Mr Freeman.  But the little incident is accepted by the child as just one of many ills that flesh is heir to: ‘I wasn’t afraid, a little apprehensive maybe, but not afraid.’  Only gradually does the reader come to realise that Maya’s ‘mother’ is a prostitute.  Abandoned by her husband, left with two children, what else is there for her?  The word ‘whore’ is generally used as an insult, but here the oldest profession is simply a way of life, if not the only way of life.  And her mother, a strict disciplinarian, is the key to Maya’s education in life.

 

Only in the West, where the family move to in the war, does Maya realise that black and white are not necessarily poles apart.  In anger and frustration she gets herself pregnant via one of ‘the most eligible young men in the neighbourhood.’  As with the rape she remains quite matter-of-fact about the sexual act: ‘Would you like to have sexual intercourse with me?’ she asks the boy, who promptly accepts the offer and disappears from her life.  Even the unwanted pregnancy is no trauma; she’s still alive, isn’t she?  And the birth is easy pie.

Morally supported by Mother, she takes arms against racism and sexism.  Maya’s triumph is not simply in gaining diplomas but in forcing others to accept her as a worthwhile human being.  In career terms she does this by becoming the first black bus conductress in San Francisco, refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer.  Maya Angelou in her own way is as militant as Malcolm X; and she needed to kill nobody.  This is an inspiring book.

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