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Paperback I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Book

ISBN: 086068511X

ISBN13: 9780860685111

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

(Book #1 in the Maya Angelou's Autobiography Series)

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good

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A very moving life story

I don't remember who, but someone once said something like, "One death is a tragedy, but a thousand deaths is just statistic." This is sort of the way to describe the way I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings impacts the reader. Through her story, you can really come to understand the life of an American black female in the 1930s. From the first years of Maya Angelou's childhood, life was very difficult. Shipped away from her parents to live with her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, pretending for years that the reason she lived with her grandmother was because her parents were dead...then finding out that her parents were in fact alive, making it seem as if Maya was not wanted. In a segregated town full of prejudicce and injustice, Maya lives until around age 7, when she is finally taken to live with her mother. Although this may seem to be a change for the better, things take a turn when young Maya is raped by her mother's boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. When Mr. Freeman is put on trial and is later murdered, Maya believes it is her fault and stops talking. After a long time of silence, Maya meets people who will change her life forever, including Mrs. Flowers, who introduces Maya to the wonderful world of poetry. With the help of Maya's mother, Mrs. Flowers, and other influential people and situations, could Maya finally find happiness? Everyone should read this book, because it reveals the true emotions and feelings that were felt by American blacks. This book will make you cry, laugh, and run right out to buy the sequel, Gather Together In My Name.

The early years of Maya Angelou

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," by Maya Angelou, is the first volume in this author's extraordinary series of autobiographical narratives. "I Know..." begins with her childhood and takes us into her young womanhood. This book has, since its publication, become a beloved contemporary classic of African-American literature.After their parents' separation, young Marguerite (her given name) and her brother, Bailey, are sent to live with their strong-willed grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, deep in the segregated South. Angelou also describes her time spent with her other grandmother in St. Louis, as well as her young adulthood in San Francisco. The overall time period of the book overlaps that of World War II."I Know..." offers important insights into the world of racial segregation, and painfully records the toll taken by racism in its various forms. Also powerful and important is Angelou's recollection of surviving a brutal sexual assault when she was a child. Angelou recalls vividly the authors who made an impact on her during her childhood and young adulthood: James Weldon Johnson, Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, and others. The book concludes with her sexual awakening as a young woman."I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is an American classic which has lost none of its power in the 30 years since it first appeared. Angelou's prose is direct and personal, and marked with passages of wit and beauty. For scholars of African-American literature, women's studies, or literary autobiography, this is an essential volume.

An adult review--and one teacher's viewpoint

May I tell you why I choose to have my ninth grade students read it? I have noticed a lot of reviews by young people, which I applaud, but an adult perspective might be helpful. I don't particularly feel the need to defend its merits. (I am not articulate enough to do justice to that task.) As with any book, some will love it and some won't. Guaranteed, it will make you uncomfortable at times, because one chapter describes the rape of a young person--which is painful for any compassionate human being to hear. Plus, there are other sexual issues, largely stemming from the earlier assault, but also because she is a teenager in the last phase of the book. Such questions about love and sex are characteristic of the teenage years. Many young people, as well as adults, are confused about such topics. While these are generally the most controversial segments from the book, the fundamental lesson of the book goes far beyond the survival of one victim. I won't supply you with the answers as to what one should take away from the text. It is a personal experience for each of us. We can all learn from Maya's honest account of her childhood journey. We can all try on her experiences and live vicariously through her for a while, and see how it changes our own perspective on what it means to be a human being. I'll be the first to admit, this book is a challenge for all my students in one way or another. Some because they are white and live in the northern US. Some because they are male and it's difficult to view life through a woman's eyes. Some because of the adult vocabulary and extensive use of figurative language. Some of these experiences are so remote from their own, while others are very close to home. It helps them to see how much we actually do have in common with those who at first seem very different. They all can benefit from reading it, if they give it a chance. (Adults may be better equiped to appreciate fully this text. However, young people can take so much from it. Maybe one day, we can have an abridged version, so it is still rich in language and meaning, yet condensed so more young people can access its many gifts.) Beyond the darkness of some of those experiences (discrimination, rape, humilation and fear) lies a powerful sense of hope, dignity, determination and resilience. One of my favorite aspects of the book is its emphasis on the power of education, language and literacy. Throughout Maya's life--books, poetry, impassioned voices have all inspired her. Her autobiography is a moving tribute to a literate way of life and an enduring legacy to that tradition.
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