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on 29 March 2017
It's sad that even now, someone like me born so many years later, can totally identify with Maya growing up as a black female. Still hoping for the best, preparing for the worst so that nothing surprises us.
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on 9 August 2017
Maya Angelou's recollections are soulful, poetic, and saturated with the extremities of life's experiences and emotions.

In *I Know Why The Cages Bird Sings*, Angelou has given the world a gift by allowing us to see and feel the world through her childhood eyes. Her story is full of struggle and pain; facing racism and being raped from an early age. Yet despite such pains, Angelou's words resonate with tenderness, wisdom and determination. And although there is a prophetic edge and systematic critique unfolding throughout her story, bitterness and resentment seem to be absent. It's almost like there's an acceptance that what has happened, has happened, coupled with the knowledge that what has happened is certainly not the last or defining word on who she can or cannot be. As Angelou says in her own words;

"The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance."

Maya Angelou certainly has my respect; she's an extraordinary woman, and I can't wait to delve into the next book in her series of autobiographies.

May her voice be heeded, celebrated and cherished by all generations.

--Tristan Sherwin, author of *Love: Expressed*
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 February 2017
This is the first book of this author's autobiographical series and it is deservedly a classic. It is written with real emotion and conveys a life that is distinct from mine in a way that helps me understand what it must have been like and how eh author experienced her life. The prose is elegant and the words obviously carefully chosen to convey much but it is easy to read. Parts of this book are harrowing and all of it will make you think.

Maya Angelou grew up with her brother, cared for by her grandmother, in rural America in the 1930s. This was a time of segregation, racism, sexism and occasional lynchings. Black people lived in poverty and in fear of their white neighbour and with good reason. Much of the book shows the accommodations and compromises that the family had to make to survive in a hostile environment - much will make you cringe and some will make you cry. Maya and her brother have been left by their parents but they reappear throughout the story and invariably make life worse for them. In the end it is her mother's boyfriend who commits the greatest violation but it is her close family which have paved the way for this to happen.

This is the story of one woman's experience growing up and it is full of detail which made me identify and sympathise with her but curiously, despite the content, this is a story which leaves you feeling uplifted. Maya is a strong woman and you realise that despite everything (and everything is a lot for anyone to cope with) she will survive and thrive. Beautifully written, this book cuts to the heart.
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on 7 January 2018
I read this book many years ago whilst a teenager myself and loved it. I fell upon it again completely by accident and read it in a day and a half. It was better this time round as I have so much more understanding of the struggles, fights and hardness of life. I also recognise the sheer wonderment of the good things in life too. Her passions and loyalties, betrayals and endeavours are all told in a heart warming heart wrenching book that all should read or be studied at school like mice and men or to kill a mocking bird.
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on 27 February 2017
I have almost reached the end of this supremely written autobiographical work of art by Dr Maya Angelou. As a hip-hop enthusiast, and by extension African-American studies, Angelou comes as a cornerstone of her race, gender, and occupation. Sensitive and brave, the book depicts the life of an African-American girl growing up in the South. Though-provoking and truthful, honest and brutal, Dr Maya Angelou opens her story to others in a selfless act of necessity. The world needs to hear this story, and even more so because it is written by one of the great writers of the last century.
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on 20 June 2014
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has been on my mental ‘to read’ list for fifteen years. (It was recommended to me by a fellow student on my writing MA. Is it really that long ago? What have I done with my life?) Maya Angelou’s death last month, aged 86, kicked me into action.

I wasn’t a very attentive student, apparently. For a start I hadn’t realised IKWTCBS is an autobiography, the first of seven.* I didn’t know Angelou has written poetry, plays, essays, children’s books, and cookbooks; nor that as well as being a writer, she was an actor, director, public speaker and, early in her career, singer and dancer. And she was also active in the civil rights movement, knowing both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. (I repeat, what have I done with my life?)

The book begins with Margueritte (Maya’s real name) aged three arriving in Stamps, Arkansas with her four year old brother, Bailey, to be raised by her Grandmother (Momma) following her parents’ break-up. It ends with her aged seventeen, in bed, cradling her three-week old baby son. In the fourteen years in between she experiences the disrespect and racism of the “po white trash”, is raped, aged eight, by her mother’s boyfriend, is stabbed by her father’s jealous girlfriend, and lives rough for a month in a car wrecking yard.

But for all the undeniably traumatic events, the book is strangely uplifting. There is her discovery of and love for literature; her overcoming of institutional racism though sheer bloody-minded persistence to become the first black, female streetcar conductor in San Francisco.

As her mother tells her, as she cradles her son in bed, afraid of hurting him: “See, you don’t have to think about doing the right thing. If you’re for the right thing you do it without thinking.” It’s a good philosophy for life.

*The other six autobiographies are: Gather Together in My Name; Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas; The Heart of a Woman; All God’s Children Need Travellin’ Shoes; A Song Flung Up To Heaven; and Mom & Me & Mom.

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on 30 May 2014
Maya Angelou writes a frank, open and touching account of a tale of a small child sent to live with her grandmother in a small, racially divided town in Arkansas. From the moment she and her brother Bailey arrive, until the birth of her son, at age 17, Angelou describes her life experiences in brutally honest detail.

Living at the family store with her devoutly religious Grandmother and disabled Uncle, she is raised as an obedient and conscientious girl. She describes the racial abuse her Grandmother suffers at the hands of the "powhitetrash" girls in a way that enlightens the reader about life in the 1930's American South.

The memoirs do tackle some extremely difficult themes. The frankness and brutality described by Angelou while explaining her experience of child rape at age 7 is extremely hard to read. But Angelou approaches the subject in her honest, open way. To avoid it would be to not give an honest picture of her life.

This book is inspirational. Maya Angelou survived a hard childhood, separated from her parents in the main, the theme that runs throughout the memoirs is hope. Angelou was a determined, courageous and intelligent woman, and this is obvious from a young age.

I would recommend this book to anyone.
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on 15 October 2016
I didn’t realise the book is an autobiography until several chapters in, when Maya finally refers to her name. Until then I had assumed it was fiction. I know, I’m a moron, right?

Honestly, realising that it wasn’t fiction was a bit horrible. It meant all the horrible struggles and experiences being shared were real. I wasn’t quite ready for that. I had to put it down for a bit. I love bleak fiction but bleak reality? That’s hard to take. I did pick it back up though - how could I not? It’s an amazing book and the bleakness isn’t presented as such - it’s just the way things are and the young Angelou seems to simply accept everything that happens to her as if it could be no other way. She also manages to make some of it sounds fun and a lot of it sound hilarious.

The only problem is that now I have to put everything else she’s written on my mental “books I want to read” list.
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on 12 April 2017
Maya Angelou writes with a precision like no other - such an honest and inspirational author. I was brought to tears of joy and sorrow on so many occasions and transported to her world and her childhood through her avid and beautiful descriptions of a life well-lived despite all its hardships.
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on 1 November 2015
I am a book addict, and love autobiographies, history, real facts and so on... This one got me in different ways..At the beginning, I wasn't into it at all....I think the way it it written, or maybe is the story itself that didn't appeal to me first.
But have to admit, halfway though it, I started to get absorbed by the whole thing! I really got to enjoy reading it, and if first was sure not to buy the following books (being an autobiography of 7 books.. isn't it?) I think i'll get them, as I want to know how it goes on...
Interesting, fascinating, different.
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