After months of looking at it on my shelf, I finally picked up I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Such a poetic and beautifully written book, I just had to share my thoughts with you.
For those of you who are not familiar with the book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings recalls part of the life of Maya Angelou, from a very young girl until the age of 16. We experience both Maya and her brother sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in the Southern town of Stamps, to time spent with their mother in St. Louis, back again to their beloved grandmother and finally, teenage years in San Francisco, once again with their mother.
My heart strings were continually pulled on throughout the book as it dealt with issues such as racism and molestation. However, it is done so tastefully and instead of the focus being mostly on these indecent acts, we instead gain a true understanding of how it feels to be on the receiving end. Some may consider these scenes explicit and not suitable for teenagers, but I disagree. The sooner we open our eyes to such monstrosities and do what we can to prevent them, the better.
I applaud Angelou as it is an extremely hard thing to do lay out such hardships openly on the table, and even more to present a child’s emotions so clearly. I place her even higher on the pedestal for writing about these incidents in the first place. I can imagine her experience has allowed many women to see they are not alone in their pain.
At the same time, the sadness of this book wasn’t completely overwhelming. We learn of another side of Maya, a side which loves books and food; two items which often provided comfort. We also experience the strong bond between herself and brother Bailey, whose antics together lead to instances of humour and sarcasm during her story.
What I enjoyed most about this book was the insight it gave me into a totally different time and life from my own. True, there are many books which deal with the South during the time of segregation, many of which are also non-fiction autobiographies, but so far there are no others which made me feel I was present in the time myself. Instead of a general overview, I again was able to place myself in another’s shoes and really understand their thoughts and emotions.
Do you know what? It seems like I really can’t do this book justice with my review and I am simply rambling. However, I hope what I was able to express enough here for you to just take my word and grab yourself a copy.