Book Reviews Books for Adults Non-fiction

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

Bart dropped me off at work an hour early today, and I went to an empty office to finish this book. I felt such a huge weight lifted after I finished the book, knowing it wouldn’t be hanging over my head anymore, and that I wouldn’t have to read it anymore.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the autobiographical story of Maya (who’s real name is Marguerite) who is sent to Stamps, Arkansas as a three-year-old with her slightly older brother, Bailey, to live with their grandmother after their parents divorce. The book follows her childhood in Stamps, until their father comes to collect them and takes to St. Louis to meet their mother. They live there for several months, until their mother’s boyfriend rapes Marguerite. After a trial, the boyfriend is killed by Marguerite’s uncles, and she and Bailey return to Stamps. She refuses to speak to anyone but Bailey for five years because she worries that her speech killed a man (her rapist) and that she must guard her tongue. Eventually she begins to speak again, graduates from school, and goes to California with Bailey to live with their mother. She and Bailey drift apart as he grows up, and she becomes pregnant at sixteen.

Ugh, I’m tired just writing that summary. I feel slightly stupid for admitting this, but I just didn’t really enjoy this book. I know it’s a hugely popular and very famous book, but it just wasn’t for me. I really like a plot-driven story, and this book was just too loose and free-form for me. I don’t like reading pages of text that are, in my opinion, just irrelevant.

In all fairness, there were some really excellent sections, that I very much enjoyed, were well-written, and that were very eye-opening about life in the South and the struggles for blacks in those times. Still, over all, it’s not a book I would recommend, or a book I’d read again. And the other five books that complete her autobiography? I can almost guarantee that I will not be looking for those in the library any time soon.

I’m sure this is your favorite book you’ve ever read, and that I’m just too illiterate to appreciate it. What did you like about it? What did I miss?

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  • Reply One Smart Cookie April 17, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    You’re not the only one – I didn’t like it either. Although, I did get to hear Maya Angelou speak once. She read excerpts from the book and it sounded much more interesting when she read it out loud then when I read it in my head. However, in general, this one was not for me.

  • Reply Janssen April 18, 2007 at 4:17 am

    Whew! What a relief. 🙂

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