BOOK REVIEW: I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou
I know why the caged bird sings is a memoir that refers to the times of intense racism and prejudice.
Without an atom of doubt, racism was very dominant in the 40's and 50's. These were the times of racial segregation where black and white schools existed, a white man could get away with a crime without any form of investigation.
I believe the author's purpose was to take us on a journey of her unfamiliar experiences, bring us to light on how her love for literature and strength of character helped her deal with racism and trauma. Some of these exotic experiences include being raised by her grandmother and uncle, sexual abuse, meeting her parents for the first time, these are just a few to mention.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maya Angelou, also known as Marguerite Johnson was a poet, memoirist, civil rights activists, singer, dancer, and screenwriter. She is best known for her 1969 memoir, I know why the caged bird sings. It was the first non-fiction best-seller by an African-American woman. She was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. She grew up in Stamps, Arkansas.
The dominant characters in this book are Maya's grandmother known as Momma, her brother Bailey and Uncle Willie.
Her maternal uncles (the Baxter uncles, uncle Tutti, Uncle Tom, Uncle Ira and Uncle Billy), Dentist Lincoln, Dolores Stockland, Louise Kendricks, Miss Kirwin, Mr Edward Donleavy, Mr George Taylor, Mr McElroy, Mrs Florida Taylor, Mrs Viola Cullinan, Tommy Valdon, Sister Monroe, Mr Stewart.
For some of these characters, Maya exhibited a love-hate relationship. I'd say the characters are three-dimensional. Three dimensional in the sense that they are portrayed in a way that makes them seem present. While reading I got a sense of their personality and internal motivations. It seemed as though I was watching a live play.
I loved the development of the characters. Maya did a great job in taking me along on the changes that occurred in their lives. Take, for example, she took me along in the changes that occurred in her biological mother's life. Emotional, psychological and financial changes.
When faced with the decision to select a title, Angelou turned to Paul Laurence Dunbar, an African-American poet whose work she had deep admiration for. Paul Laurence Dunbar was an African-America poet. Abbey Lincoln a Jazz vocalist and civil rights activist suggested the title.
According to Lyman B. Hagen, the title of this book reminds Angelou's readers it is possible to both lose control of one's life and to have one's freedom taken from them. The title of the book originated from the third stanza of Dunbar's poem "Sympathy"
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings.
The theme of the book focuses on how to resist racism and oppression.
The plot of this book was different from other books I have read, there was no climax or suspense whatsoever. It was very smooth but not predictable.
In terms of Intellectual qualities, the clarity of the author's writing definitely made it easier to understand. There were loads of fancy words. I also liked the fact that those words were repetitive which made it easier to assimilate and memorize.
Her book is classified as autobiographical fiction due to her use fiction-writing techniques which include characterization, dialogue, and thematic development.
I enjoyed her use of humor and sarcasm in her writing. Humour was used when she described how engulfed in fear she was when Mr. Taylor narrated the story of his wife's ghost visit.
A thought-provoking atmosphere is evoked in this book.
This book gives a full-length picture of Maya Angelou. It opens us up to her early childhood and teenage life. In my opinion is one of the most significant stages of a man's life. These stages in life constitute your formative years.
The events in this book are organized chronologically, although some believe it is thematic. I say chronologically because It starts with her growing up in Stamps to moving to San Francisco, where she gave birth to her son.
This book deals with times of the 40's and 50's. The account of this book is given in great detail. I love how explicit she explains the most minute events. Social and political history may not be emphasized in this book but I admire how it is being referred to. The instances mentioned in this book, served as yastic for comparison regarding the progress that has been made concerning gender equality.
MY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BOOK
Maya had a toothache and couldn't get access to the closest negro dentist as he lived 25 miles away. Her grandmother decided to take her to the closest dentist who happened to be white. He refused to treat her because she was black.
Dentist Lincoln was racist but not the in your face kinda racist. He admitted to her grandma saying, "Anie, you know I don't treat Nigra, colored people." It wasn't his policy, he said: "I'd rather stick my hand in a dog's mouth than in a nigger's".
“You sure got a pretty complexion. It was a rare compliment in a world of very few such words of praise, so it balanced being touched by the dry fingers."
This quote got my attention because of the pleasant Maya felt about the compliment. It also made me reflect on the progress the world has made regarding the perception of dark skin. I would say we have come a long way but we aren't there yet. On social media you see a lot of people express their love for dark/ chocolate skin tone.
My favorite character is Momma. I admire her values and the pride she took in raising her grandchildren. Although, they didn't have much she always made sure she provided what they needed, not necessarily what they wanted.
WHAT I ADMIRE MOST ABOUT MAYA ANGELOU?
I love how she has been able to turn adversity into triumph.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?
Yes, I would!! If you belong to the category of people who love to share and relate to the experiences of others, then this book is for you!!!
You can purchase hard copy or Kindle version on Amazon. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did.