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I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings [Paperback]

Dr Maya Angelou
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (258 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 Jan 1984

Maya Angelou's seven volumes of autobiography are a testament to the talents and resilience of this extraordinary writer. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a Black woman she has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration. In this first volume of her six books of autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930s. She learns the power of the white folks at the other end of town and suffers the terrible trauma of rape by her mother's lover.

'I write about being a Black American woman, however, I am always talking about what it's like to be a human being. This is how we are, what makes us laugh, and this is how we fall and how we somehow, amazingly, stand up again' Maya Angelou

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (26 Jan 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 086068511X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860685111
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (258 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman (President Barack Obama)

The poems and stories she wrote . . . were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace (President Bill Clinton)

She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace . . . She will always be the rainbow in my clouds (Oprah Winfrey)

She was important in so many ways. She launched African American women writing in the United States. She was generous to a fault. She had nineteen talents - used ten. And was a real original. There is no duplicate (Toni Morrison)

Book Description

One of America's most important classics, the first and best loved volume of Maya Angelou's bestselling seven-volume autobiography

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I hadn't so much forgot as I couldn't bring myself to remember. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an amazing book 15 Nov 1999
By A Customer
This is an amazing book. It is not only a picture of southern Black life in 1930s America but a very personal account of a troubled and brave childhood. Maya Angelou can make you understand all the hardship she, and many like her, went through because of her colour, age and gender without ever indulging in self pitty. She writes with warm, flowing language rich with colour and texture. It made me angry at the world, it made me question why we don't tolerate and accept people. At the same time it made me happy and comforted in the knowledge that true acceptance lies within, not in the eyes of others. I loved it.
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123 of 126 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book 14 Dec 2004
I had to read this book for a school project and at first I thought that reading the autobiography of someone that I'd never heard of would be slightly pointless. However, as we began to read the book, I discovered that previous knowledge of the author was not necessary to read and relate to this fantastically written and deeply emotional story.
Although, at times, the story (and Angelou's life) is traumatic and stressful, much of it is based on the ongoing theme of how she (and the people around her) can overcome the prejudice, hatred and lack of power that is forced upon them by the white people in their community. Angelou describes how she defeats the whites in her own personal ways, such as managing to become the first black person to work on the San Francisco streetcars.
Many people would find inspiration in this story of a child who, growing up in unfortunate and tragic circumstances, manages to overcome the racism and loathing thrown at her by not only the whites, but the other characters, such as her mother's partner, Mr Freeman, and her father's girlfriend, Dolores.
I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially those interested in American history, or the history of racism.
Maya's story is one of success and triumph through some of the most difficult situations that life could through at you.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking 1 Oct 2000
By A Customer
I came across this book as part of my degree. I read the Synopsis and expected an interesting if not distressing experience. What I got was a thought provoking amazingly overwhelming experience. Angelous' vivid account of her childhood is breath taking. There is no sign of bitterness at the traumatic experiences she encountered. In fact one realises that the events of the book are what made her who she is today.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I was hesitant to read this book at first, I thought that it looked too long and would be boring to read. Now looking back, I know I was wrong. This autobiogaphical masterpiece is set in America in the 1930's. Maya Angelou starts the book with an excerpt from a play that she was in when she was very young. She uses humour to describe the way she feels at the time. Throughout the book, she uses lots of description to put the picture in the readers mind of her surroundings and feelings. This book tackles the racist issues that are still present in todays society. She tells us of how her father moved her away from her Grandmothers place, where she lived with her brother Bailey, and their family, to go and live with her mother. While she is over there , her mothers lover rapes her. As this is the tale of her own life, Maya Angelou has expressed the way she felt at this time incredibly well. The issues in her life at this time, are so serious it is unbelievable to think that she could possibly write a book about it , and tell the world her life story. Her troubled and exceedingly brave child hood really opened my eyes to how fortunate I am , not having to deal with such things, and I expect that anyone else who has read this book would feel the same . As Maya Angelou takes us through her life, we as active readers can expect to feel lots of different emotions. Laugh or cry, you will really get involved in her story. This book has made a big impression on me , and I will definitely be reading her other books, in hope that it will be as good as this one.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile read 21 Oct 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am currently studying A-Level at secondary school, and as part of an english coursework project, I chose to study this book.

The topic for my coursework piece was the cause and effect of prejudice. This autobiographical novel was quite fitting, as it focusses on Maya Angelou, a young girl who, along with her brother, was left in the care of her grandmother and uncle, by their own parents. In the backward town of Stamps, Maya grows up in the 'black' area of the town, and the contact with the white population is so scarce that the girl even wonders at times if they really exist, or if the horrific stories she hears about them are made up.

Maya doesn't fit in in the coloured community, but nor does she fit in within the white community. Out of touch with everything around her, she says;

"If growing up is painful for the Southern black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor blade that threatens the throat."

Throughout her life, Maya goes through some horrific experiences; attacked by her mother-in-law, abandoned in the middle of Mexico, rape, a nervous disposition, and overcoming racial prejudice, and one can actually witness her growth as a result of all of this, through Angelou's evocative language.

It was very well written, with some astute imagery, which came in very useful for my coursework piece.

I compared it with To Kill A Mockingbird, if you're interested.
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