I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

88%

16 Critic Reviews

Told with a winning combination of wit and wisdom, this is a paean to the powers of storytelling to build bridges across divides, and heal what has been damaged.
-Guardian

Synopsis

Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.
 
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. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.
 
Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.
 
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings liberates the reader into life simply because Maya Angelou confronts her own life with such a moving wonder, such a luminous dignity.”—James Baldwin


From the Paperback edition.
 

About Maya Angelou

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In her life, Dr. Maya Angelou has been a dancer, an actress, a director, an activist, a journalist, a teacher, and an award-winning writer. She is also a three-time Grammy Award winner for her autobiographical spoken-word recordings. She lives in Harlem, NY, and Winston-Salem, NC.Lizzy Rockwell has written and/or illustrated 19 books for children. Lizzy lives in Norwalk, CT, with her husband, two sons, a dog, and two cats.
 
Published April 15, 2009 by Random House. 317 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, Children's Books, History. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Jun 15 2014
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Critic reviews for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
All: 16 | Positive: 16 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 14 2012

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative...

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Anita Sethi on Aug 17 2013

Told with a winning combination of wit and wisdom, this is a paean to the powers of storytelling to build bridges across divides, and heal what has been damaged.

Read Full Review of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings | See more reviews from Guardian

Examiner

Excellent
Reviewed by Nancy Wasson on Feb 17 2011

More than a writer or an aficionado of language, Maya Angelou is a living inspiration for equality, peace and love.

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Examiner

Excellent
Reviewed by Jillian Hoyt on Aug 30 2010

Angelou’s voice is clear and real, bearing a romanticized but authentic vision of the past; she tells her story as she truthfully recalls it and her honesty evokes an understanding within readers.

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Pajiba

Good
Reviewed by Jamie Pomerhn on Aug 28 2013

This book is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, and it inspires hope in the reader. Angelou is able to endure child abuse, racism, and poverty in order to become the success that she is today.

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Common Sense Media

Above average
on Jun 17 2014

Parents need to know that the first volume in poet Maya Angelou's autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is a poignant and poetic account of the author's life up until age 17.

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UTexas

Good
on Dec 19 2014

Beautifully written from a first-person point of view, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is powerful and captivating. Because of the novel's mature subject matter, though, it should only be studied with older students...

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Vanessa D. on Dec 23 2014

In the book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou articulates the adventure of tragedy and triumph she faced throughout her life. She embraces the sweet simplicity of her mother's words of wisdom...

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Megan S. on Oct 02 2014

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know what it used to be like for Africans-Americans and how it has changed today.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Anson H on May 01 2014

By reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, you will better understand racism's evils. If you're feeling down because of your race, you'll feel on top again.

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Before It's News

Excellent
on Sep 15 2012

While I feel she is a true poet at heart, her writing is so skillful that I’d have to attempt to cull some advice from her. I’d also love to hear more about her brother who she so obviously adored.

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The Blue Bookcase

Excellent
Reviewed by ConnieGirl on Jul 02 2010

Stick it on the shelf, and then buy copies for all of your friends and re-read it every year...Well, read it. Seriously, Angelou's books are life-changing.

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The Introverted Reader

Good
Reviewed by Introverted Jen on Sep 28 2010

It's ultimately about hope. Because if Maya Angelou can make it through all that she made it through, I (And you. And you. And youandyouandyouandyouandyou) can make it through whatever troubles we have.

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Tiny Library

Good
Reviewed by Sam on Jul 23 2012

I know there are several other volumes in the autobiography but it would have been nice if this volume had a more complete ending, rather than just suddenly stopping at a new life event. Recommended to everyone that's not had a chance to read it yet, this is an important book.

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Literary Musings

Good
on Feb 02 2011

It's a book about persistence, perseverance and tolerance. While some instances were hard to stomach, overall I enjoyed the book very much.

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Booking Through 365

Good
Reviewed by Emma on Sep 17 2013

Overall, this memoir is amazing. It's very well written, and it creates a lot of commentary around innocence, sexuality, parenting, race, and gender. I understand why it's so famous.

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