I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (review by Andrew R. ’17)

I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maya Angelou, the beloved and decorated author who passed away just under a year ago, is known equally well as a poet and a memoirist, but reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has left no doubt in my mind as to which part of her legacy is more accurate. Dr. Angelou was a poet. Yes, Caged Bird is a prose memoir, one that spans Angelou’s adoption by her grandmother (at age three) to the birth of her first child (at age 17), but the book is written like no autobiography I have ever encountered: the language possesses a lyricism and a flow that very little poetry, much less prose, can lay claim to. In fact, Caged Bird often felt like a long, simple poem, free of the intimidating erudition that so often accompanies book-length verse. Although Angelou writes in the voice of maturity, her narrative convincingly portrays the confusion of a young black child in the Deep South—and the portrait of racism that results is painful and jarring. Caged Bird is more than the sum of its parts: it’s not a poetic memoir or an autobiographical poem, but a beautiful and frightening vision of our country’s past. – Andrew R.’17

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