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“I know why the caged bird sings” by Maya Angelou

This is the first instalment of Maya Angelou’s both tragic and inspiring autobiography series. Angelou’s life begins with her mother and father who send her and her brother Bailey away to their grandmother ‘Momma’ in a little town called Stamps. There she grows, acknowledging the world around her and the hard life that the black community have to endure in light of white dominance.

Bailey and Marguerite ‘Maya’ are then sent back to live with their mother for a short while. A time in which both grow far beyond their young years, Maya is subjected to a sexual assault and in response becomes completely mute. They are then sent back to Stamps to live with their grandmother once more, in the hope that young Maya can re discover her voice as an independent black young women.

As Maya grows physically, the reader might note the change in her general outlook as she starts to fully understand the position she has been born into because of her skin colour. When both siblings are somewhat older but still considered young adults, they are once more sent to live with their mother, a troubling time when their age and maturity threatens to tear the siblings apart.

Bailey dares to step out of the family and start life on his own and Maya finds a new confidence and independence within herself, strong enough to make decisions for herself. But once more the youngster is faced with the debilitating racism within society through World War 2, even though slavery has all but ended, this novel proves that people of colour still faced social confinement.

 This is a novel everyone should take their time to read, you can’t escape the realness of Angelou’s voice or the sense of pure unfaltering will power that the young girl emits.

A rare autobiography that not only educates on the tragedy of real life, but uplifts the reader into a state euphoric hope, that one day things will change. Read with caution, a box of tissues to hand is recommended.

Written by Lauren Noding


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