Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Ballantine Books, 2009.
Reviewed by J. d'Artagnan Love
Maya Angelou has a writing voice both melodic and forceful. In this memoir, she recounts her childhood, the mysteries of growing up in the deep south, the excitement and energy of spending time in cities like St. Louis, and the trauma of being raped. She reaches into the heart of her family system and the lives connected to the family like threads of a spider's web.
My experience reading this book was visceral. In a traumatic scene, my stomach cramped and I broke out in a sweat. My chest felt tight and I had to breathe deeply. She pulled me so deeply into her life, it affected me physically. This is the first time I've experienced this from a piece of literature.
When she describes the power of words, especially the power of the spoken word, it opened my eyes to how magical language truly is. I have always loved language but she made it clear just how important the spoken word is. How you can hold a word on your tongue, let it roll around a bit, let it seep in different vocal intonations so that the word becomes more than a word--it becomes an experience, an energy, an incantation. This Angelou's power with words. Her poetry shines even in her prose.
RECOMMENDED FOR: Readers who can appreciate lyrical memoirs, readers interested in Black history, and readers interested in women's history.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Those who could be triggered by scenes of rape and assault.
5 darts out of 5