Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou *****

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a memoir by Maya Angelou about growing up as a black in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. She lived alternately with her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas and her separated parents in St. Louis and California.

While her story included the pervasive and institutional prejudice and violence towards blacks, she always rose above it all and succeeded. For instance, during the war she decided she wanted to work on the San Francisco cable cars. Undaunted by the facts that she was only 15 applying for a job that required applicants to be 18, and that the cable car company had never hired a black for the position she wanted, she went after the job anyway. Through polite persistence and clever fabrications, she got the job.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a wonderful mixture of the challenges of be Black and the benefits of being Maya Angelou. A story of tears and cheers.
When the spring classes began, I resumed my commitment to formal education. ... I was sure that I had learned and earned the magic formula that would make me a part of the gay life my contemporaries led. ... Not a bit. ... They were concerned and excited over the approaching football games, but I had in my immediate past raced a car down a dark and foreign Mexican mountain ... I remembered sleeping for a month in a wrecked automobile and conducting a streetcar in the uneven hours of the morning. Without willing it, I had gone from being ignorant or being ignorant to being aware of being aware.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a book that everyone should read and a book that everyone will enjoy.

LGBT Book Watch: Though I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (published in 1970) deals primarily with The Black Experience in America, it also includes (at the end) a sympathetic and humorous recounting of a young girl's thoughts about Lesbianism with references of a 1920's classic on the subject: The Well of Loneliness.

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