This is an autobiography written by Maya Angelou in 1969. It gives a great insight into life as a young black girl living in 1960s/1970s in the United States of America. After reading this book, I could not resist the urge to find out more about the author. Maya Angelou wasn’t just an author but a civil rights activist as well. She was well known for speaking in defence of the black community. She was a recipient of over 50 honorary degrees amongst several other awards before her death in 2014.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings spans through her childhood starting at age 3 to 17. Marguerite (aka Maya) was just 3 and her brother, Bailey, 4 when they were sent alone to Arkansas to live with their paternal grandmother and crippled uncle. Her grandmother happened to be a successful religious store owner and Maya and her brother usually worked in the store at their free time. When she was 8, they were picked up by their dad and made to live with their beautiful mother where Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. Though he was found dead few days after he was released from court, the event had a lasting negative impact on her. Maya and her brother were later sent back to their grandmother’s with Maya being more enclosed, reserved and refused to talk to anyone except Bailey. However with the help of one Mrs Flowers and books,she gradually grew out of her shell.
Maya was a witness to all sorts of racism and racists comments towards black. An incident occurred which led to their grandmother sending them back to their mother in Sans Francisco. She later became the first black female street-car conductor in Sans Francisco and got pregnant at age 16. The pregnancy was a result of her curiosity concerning her sexuality.
I personally enjoyed this book and was intrigued by Maya’s intelligence and smartness at that age. Another painful part of this book aside her being raped at age 8, was the incident that happened at her graduation ceremony where the speaker gave a speech that insinuated that black people can only be confined to particular kind of low-level jobs. I also enjoyed the closeness she had with her brother and the interesting sense of humour they shared.
I give this book a 7/10.
~”You don’t have to think about doing the right thing. If you’re for the right thing, then you do it without thinking” – Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings~