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95 of 97 found the following review helpful:
I agree this book is amazing.Mar 27, 2004
By D. Mabey
In a poetic, yet detatched way, Maya Angelou captures the heart of her struggles growing up female and Black during the Depression. Her style and description draw in the reader and keep her spellbound even during the most painful scenes. You feel deeply for the author and her little brother as they drift through their lives living for a bit of affection. Neglected by their divorced parents, Maya and her brother get sent to Arkansas at ages 4 and 5 to live with their grandma and handicapped uncle. Although life is hard and love not demonstrated, Maya learns much from her grandma and uncle.
The theme of this book is the quest for the child to be loved by the adult. Maya feels inferior. She feels ugly and compares herself to her magical brother Bailey. Both children are starved for true affection and daydream a white movie actress on the screen is their long lost mother.
Maya and her brother are eventually united with "Mother Dear" in St.Louis when she is eight. Unfortunately Mother's boyfriend begins to abuse Maya(...). This is graphically portrayed in the book. Maya's feelings of not belonging and not being truly loved are compounded after the abuse.
I admire all the autobiographical books by Ms.Angelou. She has achieved a lot in her life for a person who started out in such a sad situation.
This book should be read and re-read.
82 of 87 found the following review helpful:
An adult review--and one teacher's viewpointJun 08, 2000
By Michele Eshleman
May I tell you why I choose to have my ninth grade students read it? I have noticed a lot of reviews by young people, which I applaud, but an adult perspective might be helpful.
I don't particularly feel the need to defend its merits. (I am not articulate enough to do justice to that task.) As with any book, some will love it and some won't. Guaranteed, it will make you uncomfortable at times, because one chapter describes the rape of a young person--which is painful for any compassionate human being to hear. Plus, there are other sexual issues, largely stemming from the earlier assault, but also because she is a teenager in the last phase of the book. Such questions about love and sex are characteristic of the teenage years. Many young people, as well as adults, are confused about such topics. While these are generally the most controversial segments from the book, the fundamental lesson of the book goes far beyond the survival of one victim. I won't supply you with the answers as to what one should take away from the text. It is a personal experience for each of us.
We can all learn from Maya's honest account of her childhood journey. We can all try on her experiences and live vicariously through her for a while, and see how it changes our own perspective on what it means to be a human being.
I'll be the first to admit, this book is a challenge for all my students in one way or another. Some because they are white and live in the northern US. Some because they are male and it's difficult to view life through a woman's eyes. Some because of the adult vocabulary and extensive use of figurative language. Some of these experiences are so remote from their own, while others are very close to home. It helps them to see how much we actually do have in common with those who at first seem very different. They all can benefit from reading it, if they give it a chance. (Adults may be better equiped to appreciate fully this text. However, young people can take so much from it. Maybe one day, we can have an abridged version, so it is still rich in language and meaning, yet condensed so more young people can access its many gifts.)
Beyond the darkness of some of those experiences (discrimination, rape, humilation and fear) lies a powerful sense of hope, dignity, determination and resilience. One of my favorite aspects of the book is its emphasis on the power of education, language and literacy. Throughout Maya's life--books, poetry, impassioned voices have all inspired her. Her autobiography is a moving tribute to a literate way of life and an enduring legacy to that tradition.
83 of 90 found the following review helpful:
The early years of Maya AngelouMar 30, 2001
By Michael J. Mazza
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," by Maya Angelou, is the first volume in this author's extraordinary series of autobiographical narratives. "I Know..." begins with her childhood and takes us into her young womanhood. This book has, since its publication, become a beloved contemporary classic of African-American literature.
After their parents' separation, young Marguerite (her given name) and her brother, Bailey, are sent to live with their strong-willed grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, deep in the segregated South. Angelou also describes her time spent with her other grandmother in St. Louis, as well as her young adulthood in San Francisco. The overall time period of the book overlaps that of World War II.
"I Know..." offers important insights into the world of racial segregation, and painfully records the toll taken by racism in its various forms. Also powerful and important is Angelou's recollection of surviving a brutal sexual assault when she was a child. Angelou recalls vividly the authors who made an impact on her during her childhood and young adulthood: James Weldon Johnson, Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, and others. The book concludes with her sexual awakening as a young woman.
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is an American classic which has lost none of its power in the 30 years since it first appeared. Angelou's prose is direct and personal, and marked with passages of wit and beauty. For scholars of African-American literature, women's studies, or literary autobiography, this is an essential volume.
25 of 28 found the following review helpful:
Brilliant!May 31, 2000
By Born Canadian
Maya Angelou can write, there is no question about that. Her descriptions in this book are so vivid and expressive that I feel, in a small way, I know what it might have been like to live in Arkansas during the 1940s.
I found in the reviews that there seemed to be 2 reasons that people didn't like this book:
1) kids forced to read it for school - I'm not surprised. If I was 14, I probably would have hated it too. Kids want books with action and a story.
2) suggestions that Maya Angelou is a racist - this book is told through the eyes of a young black girl who rarely met a white person and those she met treated her in ways that stripped her of her dignity and her personhood. Any negative feelings she had are entirely understandable.
Maya writes with honesty and such feeling that at times it is almost painful to read but I'm glad I did. I'll never know what it feels like to be black and the target of bigotry but Maya has helped me understand just a little by letting me walk a while in her shoes.
30 of 35 found the following review helpful:
A good book, although the ending is rushed.Dec 02, 1999
By Elizabeth Green
I was intrigued by the mixed ratings of this book & the various comments about Maya Angelou being racist towards whites. This book is written throught the eyes of a young black child growing up in a community where there is segregation & discrimination on account of skin colour. To see 'differences' between 'black' & 'white' is something she has grown up with.
Taken by her Grandmother with severe toothache to a white dentist (the black dentist being a days journey away), Maya is refused treatment with the excuse - "I'd rather put my hand in a dogs mouth than in some niggah." This man had borrowed money from Maya's Grandmother to keep his surgery open during the depression. He refuses to treat a 'black' child......but 'black' money is 'acceptable'. With such hypocrisy, surely you can understand how Maya would feel a little disgruntled towards her white countrymen? Who wouldn't?
Being a 'white' female, I will probably never encounter such racial discrimination or even understand how another person prejudices could effect your own peace of mind. Read it & remind yourself of the similarities between human beings rather than superficial differences.
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