I know why caged birds sing is a book written by Maya Angelou. She is even known as the American poet and civil rights activist. She is globally known for the ‘Black Women’s poet Laureate’. Her poems always reflected the image of the society and the problems she faced being a BLACK. Here in her book ‘Caged Birds’ mostly refers to the reflection on social disparity, ideas of speech, freedom and justice to and individual. The birds who are been kept in the caged refers to the inequality of justice seen in the society where there was a differentiates between the African – American counterpart.
‘I know why caged birds sings’ was publish in 1996 which was the first of many memories of her. It is the story of her life basically from here earliest memories to the late teenage years [first seventeen years of her life] which begins when she and her brother Bailey are send to live with their grandmother in Stamps Arkansas. Maya who went by Marguerite at the times had a strong sense that it meant something to have your parents send you away to live with their grandparents and she does have that sense of herself and her brother that they are not orphans but they are being sent away from their own parents to live an extended family life.
Maya has very little interaction with white people and she writes about the other enough sub white people and not quite believing that they are real which is so interesting because later with integration people of color were very often forced to take on the dominant culture and to understand white people because the experiences of white people were taken as universal but in stamps and what I think was around the 1930s she experiences white people as other and really what she knows of white people is the Ku Klux Klan [a secret hate group in southern U.S] this fear of lynching and the threat of it is something that carries through the entire early part of the memoir there’s this line about how the sphere of lynching is always in the mind of a mother of a black man and there’s a scene that’s really powerful in the memoir where they have to hide her uncle who is disabled and they have to hide him just because something went down in the town somewhere and that riled up the Ku Klux Klan and they might come after any black man that they can find even though her uncle had nothing to do with anything and didn’t even leave the house. Maya Angelou writes in this way where you feel the threat of lynching as a reader and I have really never thought about or understood lynching quite so strongly or vividly both Maya and her brother Bailey are incredibly smart and wherein even the school is easy for them they also love to read and there’s a lot of passages specifically about what they are reading like Bailey’s reading this and Maya’s reading this and it’s so interesting and just will touch on my own love of reading. I just love that they’re not only the smartest kids in the class but they know how smart they are and they seem to have a sense of it as well that they are destined for something bigger than stamps there is an incident of sexual assault in the memoir and I don’t want to talk about the events around it because they were surprising to me.
What’s really interesting especially is the way that Maya Angelou takes up how this event impacted her later life and shaped her attitudes to sex and men and relationships that part especially is very interesting it’s not a thread that is dropped immediately Maya’s life is so interesting and I haven’t read her other memoirs yet but I hope that she at least picks up on some of the things that happened in ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ and tells more about them. So just to name a couple things she went to revival meetings in tents in the south she once drove down a mountain in Mexico before she had learned how to drive she spent some time living in a junkyard with basically a family of younger children that’s the one I think could be a young adult novel. She was the first black woman to be a streetcar conductor in San Francisco and that was no accident she made that happen because it’s what she wanted to do reading ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ Maya Angelou just strikes you as a person who was always going to prevail but she does talk about a couple people, a couple women, one living in stamps when she was younger. Later a teacher in San Francisco who saw something in her and encouraged her and pushed her to be even better than she knew that she could be. This shows the power of these individuals especially in a culture that doesn’t recognize on black woman or encourage her to be anything in particular they really helped her and supported. Later while reading this biography I just really love when you see the influence that a single person can have ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ is unapologetic which was really refreshing because so many things written by women are full of disclaimers and qualifiers and self-awareness used as a defense. We are taught to write that way and when we express too much confidence people will knock us down.
It great to read ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ and just hear her talk about her life without offering any apologies for it or trying to soften any of it so it’s easier for the reader to hear the one thing that does stand out from that and she offers an explanation though not an apology is what happened in San Francisco right after world war two was declared they noticed at least subtly or at least upon reflection that Japanese people were disappearing from the city and really the black community took over the part of San Francisco that they had been living in. She says “That they really didn’t think that much about these Japanese people who are being forced to leave the city we know of course they were being sent to internment camps.” This way the actual oppressed groups interact with each other is just not the ideal way that we think. They identify with each other, they didn’t share in any spirit of being oppressed as Japanese people were leaving the city the african-american community in that area started to flourish more and there was just not a lot of thought given to why that was happening or what it meant or any other things outside of just living individual lives it really feels. Especially in this part of the biography but also in other parts that this was just a life happening in a really interesting time. In history that this event is just like happening in the background of her life and later maya angelou as a person became much more involved in different movements.
Maya Angelou wrote ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ when she was 40 and by that point in her life she had been very involved in all kinds of different things including especially the civil rights movement and one thing I didn’t know until I came across pictures of them together is that she was good friends with James Baldwin and I think that he was already established enough at that time but he really helped her make this book a reality. I think her closed ones encouraged her to write it and then helping to get it published.
‘I know what the Caged Bird Sings’ liberates the reader into life simply because Maya Angelou confronts her own life was such a moving wonder such luminous dignity that touches on something. Full of energy and I just get such a strong sense of Maya Angelou herself and she has this really interesting way of writing about herself like I mentioned it’s unapologetic and it’s just so clear and yet poetic at the same time it’s really beautiful.