I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Random. Apr. 2009. 304p. pap. $18. ISBN 9780812980028.
Gr 10 Up–Brave and poignant, this is a moving account that explores identity, racism, trauma, and rising above severe adversities while triumphing over challenges. It begins with three-year-old Maya and her four-year-old brother Bailey Jr. traveling by train from Long Beach, California. Wearing tags on their wrists and adorned with a sign that reads, “To Whom It May Concern,” they were sent to segregated Stamps, Arkansas, to reside with their religious and strict grandmother after their parents’ divorce. Known as “Momma,” their grandmother owns a general merchandise store. Despite the store being a staple in the community and lay center of activities in town for 25 years, Momma endures racial injustices as a Black woman store owner living in the South in the 1930s and 1940s. The first of Angelou’s seven autobiographical books centers her experiences as a Black girl from the age of three to 17 and does not shy away from difficult topics and themes, including sexual abuse. Readers will learn how Maya navigates a life of trauma and develops a long-lasting relationship with literature. Infused with poetic language and emotion, Angelou’s memoir is often a heartrending read that will, unfortunately, resonate with many. Still, it is also filled with joy and will inspire young adults to fight against oppression.
VERDICT Recommended for all libraries and collections.

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