I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m almost kind of embarrassed to have waited this long to read this book. I know everyone in the world probably have read this book except for me, but I’ve now become a member and fan of Maya Angelou.

From the beginning of this memoir I was enraptured by her poetic prose, her imaginative language, and her ability to bring you along with her in her storytelling. She has such a way with words, that it is pure beauty to read and visualize what she’s telling you.

I learned of her upbringing from the age of 3 years old to 16 years old. I couldn’t help but sympathize with her in all that happened to her during her formative years. I was shocked and surprised that this “Still I Rise” poet went through this type of childhood. I had imagined Maya with some peaceful childhood, uneventful, and probably Southern raised, but nothing like the life she had that she described in this book.

Maya Angelou also has a great sense of humor and a way to deal/cope with her situations she found herself in. It was almost as if things were desensitized over a period of time as she reflects back on what happened to her. When she talks about how she was mute for a period of time (5 years and speaking only to her brother) made me reflect on the seriousness of what happened to her. However, the way she wrote about this part of her life, it was almost downplayed as if this was a normal reaction as to what happened to her, and there was no other choice for her but to be silent.

Another incident that occurred that made me think about her thought process in writing was when she described the incident that happened when she was with her father in Mexico. The way she wrote about that stressful incident and finding herself voluntarily homeless in a junkyard for a month had me really have questions about why she did the things she did. She initially described it as something that just happened to her, but as you read through the situation, I find that she could have avoided being there all together. I just wonder if she was really naive about life, being that she lived a kind of sheltered country life in Stamps, Arkansas.

Her parents were described as aloof and un-participative in her upbringing… unsure of really how to parent her and her brother, they were both lost causes as parents, in my opinion. Unfortunate for her grandmother to have raised her because she had her own child (Uncle Willie) to take care of, but it may have just saved her and her brother’s early life, as their lives just kind of took a free-fall with their parents.

I truly believe the structured country upbringing did not prepare Maya for a life outside of Stamps, Arkansas. She did not know anything about the “real world” and how people operate outside of the forced obedient living of the South. Seeing that she became a teenage mother at 16 because she had to find out whether or not she was a lesbian, and needed to have sex to determine her sexual preference, is telling in itself.

I was kind of disappointed in the way the books ends, but I understand that this is the first installation of her multi-autobiographies that she published. I am curious as to find out more about Maya and how she became the great poet that we all know and love now as the legendary unofficial”poet laureate.”

I would rate this book a 4 and recommend to other who have never read about her life. This book can easily be a re-read for many years. I just wish the ending of this book closed the chapter of this part of her life, but it leaves it open-ended which can disappoint some readers.

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Black Woman… The Anthology

The Black Woman: An Anthology

The Black Woman: An Anthology by Toni Cade Bambara

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published in 1970, this collection of work is centered around the black woman and all that touches her (i.e., family, the black man, race, religion, sexuality, socioeconomic standing, government, media, sisterhood, white women, white men, civil rights, and education). Many of the writings, if not all, were written in the 60s, and discussed the black revolution/black power movement, and the role women played during this time while civil rights were actively being pursued, fought for, died for, and lived for. Although written almost 50 years ago today, the words/stories/essays are still very much relevant today, if not more. Today, America is reliving its ugly past, and to read these collected works during a time of utter pure upheaval and fight for the right to be alive as a Black person is so very relevant!

Some of my favorite works were:
• Reena – Paule Marshall (1962)
• Is the Black Male Castrated – Jean Carey and Patrice Peery (1969)
• Black Pride? Some Contradictions – Ann Cook (1969)
• A Historical and Critical Essay for Black Women in the Cities, June 1969 – Pat Robinson
• The Black Revolution in America – Grace Lee Bogs (1968)
• Dear Black Man – Fran Sanders
• Motherhood – Joanna Clark
• I fell off the roof one day (A view of the black university) – Nikki Giovanni (1969)

However, halfway through this book I hit a wall and was bogged down by the heaviness of some of the essays. I wasn’t really sure how some of them fit into the construct of the overall premise of the book. I had to read and re-read many of the works to get a better understanding from what the authors were saying, and I lost connection with the works towards the end, specifically the last 2 essays. I wish there was either some afterword explaining the selection and/or why these specific works were chosen or the works were grouped in the book according to what was going to be discuss. Even though this book took me an inordinately long time to read it, I still highly recommend this collection of work to be read, especially in today’s time with the current racial tension we have between people of color and white people. This book is rated a 4 based on relevancy and the meaningful essays collected by our highly intellectual black women who have carefully explained the Black Woman in all manner of details and how she relates to our current world.

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