23 years old and only just read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou


Now that’s pretty shameful, considering I graduated with a degree in English Literature and have been a voracious reader since the moment I could pick up a book. But it was Maya Angelou’s death on the 28th May this year gave me the kick I needed to read what is well known as an American classic.

And wow.

I mean talk about emotional. If that is even the word for it. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first instalment of Angelou’s autobiography, was a humorous and equally heartbreaking read. It isn’t all misery in her autobiography, there are a lot of touching moments and genuinely funny passages.

But she’s had some experiences that most of us couldn’t even begin to think about while growing up in the American south of the 1930s- being raped at the age of eight and the vile discrimination she receives because of the colour of her skin amongst others- but she unashamedly lays her history bare for all the world to read. She is proud of who she is, her roots and the obstacles that even in her childhood she had to overcome. She’s proud of her race and her gender. And although some passages detailing what Angelou experienced leave you feeling sickened and infuriated, her story is a reminder of what she and many others suffered at the hands of racial segregation, and that they are not alone.  I was drew in by the scenery; the small, segregated southern town where Angelou was sent with her brother to live with their grandmother was so vivid, I could even hear the accents.

I Know Why the Caged Bird is one of eight books in the entire autobiography. But even at such a young age, Angelou’s life was full of challenges and I loved her blunt honesty in telling the story, no matter how heartbreaking it sometimes was to read.


I also love this quote:


“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”