I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

I picked up I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou for free, or very cheap, somewhere because I knew I should read something of hers. I didn't know anything about her apart from that she's an American poet and highly respected. I didn't know anything about the book, either, apart from recognizing the title — I didn't know if it was poetry or a novel, if it was going to be hard to read or light (didn't really expect it to be light).

Turns out I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is a memoir of Angelou's peripatetic and eventful childhood in Arkansas, California and St Louis, and while it wasn't light, it was an easy read. For the most part the language is straightforward (but beautiful) and the story is told forthrightly, without undue metaphor or digression. Occasionally Angelou steps out of her narrative to provide a larger context for a situation, or to reflect on an event with the wisdom of hindsight, but these asides are insightful and welcome.

I didn't expect to enjoy the book as much as I did, and I now find I want to know what happens next (the book ends when Angelou is sixteen). Where does she get her last name? What happens to her brother? I suppose I could find out from Wikipedia, but I'd rather have the story unfold in the author's words. Lucky for me her memoirs continue in Gather Together In My Name.


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