I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I read the first of Maya Angelou’s autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and it was amazing, and there’s now going to be a review.

So there’s not really a plot, because it’s an autobiography, so it’s about Maya Angelou’s life. It starts when she’s about three years old and it ends when she’s 17. It chronicles her life in Stamps, Arkansas, where she lived with her grandmother. Her parents had a slightly tumultuous marriage and her parents sent Maya and her brother to live with their paternal grandmother. Maya and Bailey eventually move to St.Louis when Maya is 7-8, and they live with their mother. Maya is raped by her mother’s boyfriend, and for a long time she refuses to talk. Because after he is let out of jail he is killed, presumably by Maya’s uncles, and she thinks her voice can kill. They move back with their grandmother again, and Maya sort of fights her way back. Eventually they move to San Francisco to live with their mother again.

For a little while in the beginning I sort of forgot that this was an autobiography. It is so beautifully written, it’s gorgeous, and it felt like just a story about a girl named Marguerite, which is Maya’s real name, Maya being a nickname her brother gave her. Then I sort of pulled myself out of that, and read it as an autobiography about Maya’s life.

The prose is just so beautiful and wonderful. Maya Angelou was born in 1928, so she grew up during segregation, and this is especially evident when Maya is with her grandmother in Arkansas. It’s heavily segregated, the blacks in town mainly work in the cotton fields. Black girls work as maids in white houses. And even though this wasn’t a great time to live it was still beautifully written about.

I feel like she has experienced a lot. It only covers about 14 years and she goes through a lot of stuff. And also, she’s a badass. When she’s 15 she becomes the first black woman to be a conductor on the streetcars in San Francisco, purely by being persistent and tough. She will let nothing stop her, and she is fierce.


I don’t know if I have much to say about this book, it’s fascinating to read about the US in the 30s and 40s. It’s fascinating to read about her life, everything she’s done and experienced. It’s really interesting and it’s beautiful. I really want to read some of her poetry as well.