I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is my book review of the famous autobiography, "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou.

Submitted: December 21, 2016

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Submitted: December 21, 2016



Maryan Hassan

Ms. Rodriguez

AP Language and Composition

16 December 2016

AP Language Memoir Review

The autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou is an intriguing and engaging piece of writing that discusses the tribulations and challenges that Maya had to endure yet conquer to learn to love herself and find her place in the world. Although this autobiography may contain sensitive content, it is still a recommended read because of the author’s evocative takeaway values through character development and comprehensible historical context.

In this compelling and insightful autobiography, Maya refers vividly to instances when she feels as though she has been on the outside looking in, feeling as if she doesn’t belong because of her skin color and appearance. Under this clear identity conflict and insecurity because of the color of her skin, Maya’s fantasies revolve around having blonde hair, blue eyes that are trapped in a “black ugly dream”(pg 2). However, Maya is offered an opportunity to understand the aspects of self-knowledge and affirm her individual self-worth and beauty when she visits a Mexican junkyard with her Father that has a mixed race of African Americans, Mexicans, and Whites. She explains how the group of people accepted her without any question, and she comes to the conclusion, “after hunting down broken bottles and selling them with a white girl from Missouri, a Mexican from Los Angeles and a Black from Phalama, I was never again to sense myself solidly outside the pale of the human race" (pg 254). Before Maya felt insecure about her appearance because of the color of her skin, however, she gradually developed into a young woman who learned to unapologetically love and embrace her dark melanin. Through this character development, Maya was clearly able to recognize that she is beautiful on her own accord, and her self-worth runs deeper than her self-loathe. And that is the relevant message that speaks to the readers, the powerful takeaway. The readers are able to walk away with the message that beauty should not be measured by the degree of being white or any other race.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings wouldn’t be the eloquent and evocative autobiography that it is today without the historical context. The autobiography was written around during the time period when discrimination was at its highest peak. Maya has viewed and many times dealt with difficult situations. ns that concerned racism and discrimination, She learns that the only way for black people to remain strong dignified in the face of racism to respond with dignity rather than irrational attacks. For example, when the white woman yells at the black war veteran to fight for his country because that is the least he could, he does not yell back, he simply and quietly points out,“ then ask your son to look around for my arm, which I left over there” (pg. 213). This quote is illustrating how the man is avoiding a demeaning argument regarding racism, while at the same telling the woman that she is foolish and ignorant. Maya reveals the role that racism played in her life in chapter 19 when she talks about the boxing match between Joe Louis, a black man, and a white man. She explains that the black people living in Stamp make themselves feel about their situations (racism and discrimination) by listening to a fight where the black contestant actually wins. Maya indicates that the fight symbolizes the black community’s fight for equality. Even if Joe wins, it’s not going to change the issues within the community, however, the outcome might give them hope of equality. Maya addresses the historical context of her time in a way that’s clear and unambiguous to not only educate her readers but to allow them to gain a much wider and deeper understanding of the time when the book was written in a historical perspective.

One might object to read this autobiography because of the sensitive content that it includes, such as sexual abuse. However, an insight into such impactful experiences narrated by a raconteur; a person with the power of letting her words stretch before our eyes to leave prominent marks behind, lets us, as readers, avail the opportunity to learn how to assist those who are victimized by such events. It also allows us to see how honest and blunt Maya is about discussing the sensitive incident. Even though Maya was greatly impacted by the traumatic incident, she finds her voice through the love of language and books through the help of Mrs. Bertha Flowers.

The autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an empowering piece of writing to consider. Maya Angelou’s evocative takeaways through her amazing character development and historical context slowly captivate your attention without your knowledge. Through her valuable takeaways and historical context, Maya succeeds in creating an emotional arc that traces and highlights her growth from an inferiority complex character to a confident character and finding the strength to tackle both her inner and outer conflicts. If you’re looking for a book that provides a relevant message and offers you an informative insight, then I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings would be the wonderful autobiography to add to your reading list!

© Copyright 2019 Maryan Hassan . All rights reserved.

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