After reading some of Maya Angelou’s poetry in February, I decided I needed to move her autobiography up on my TBR list. Now that I’ve finally made time for it, I was not disappointed.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is Angelou’s story in her own words, starting as a young girl being raised by her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. Her life there is often defined in terms of black and white. When Angelou and her brother, Bailey, finally get the chance to live in St. Louis with their mother, an ache in their hearts is filled. Until young Angelou is sexually abused by an older man. The attack throws her young mind into chaos, and it takes many years for her to start to undo some of the damage and learn to live and love in her own skin.
Angelou’s writing is poignant and plain, told in a straightforward way that doesn’t seek to analyze or explain herself, simply to relay the story of her life. It’s gripping right from the beginning, and readers can easily lose themselves in the book. There are moments of heartbreak and moments of triumph, moments to laugh at and moments to cry at.
Her life story highlights perhaps one of her most powerful thoughts: “we are more alike than we are unalike.” She presents her life as ordinary, in a way. Reading it doesn’t feel like a, “look at all the extraordinary experiences I had and lived through,” but more of a, “here’s my story, what’s yours?” I can tell, it’s the kind of book you return to, after a time, and it feels like coming back to an old friend.