I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

By: Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

This book is an autobiography of Maya's life. Here's a link telling a little more about Maya and her book.

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The children, Maya and Bailey Jr. begin their lives in California, but since they have really irresponsible parents they are shuttled off to their grandma's in Arkansas around the 1930's. The small town goes by the name of Stamps, Arkansas and is the central place of the black community. Their grandmother, Momma, owns a store that is quite the hotspot for the black people throughout the day. Later in the book, the two children go back to live with their real mother. After a tragic event, the children are again sent to Stamps. This time in history was when the black and white people were still quite segregated and living in Stamps is not always the safest. The Ku Klux Klan has a tendancy to attack the black people here. Maya's life gets pretty difficult at times
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Main Characters

  • Marguerite Ann Johnson (Maya): She wrote this book about her life.
  • Bailey Jr: Maya's Brother
  • Momma: Maya and Bailey Jr's grandmother
  • Bailey Johnson: Maya and Bailey Jr's Father, who Bailey Jr received his name from
  • Uncle Willie: Maya's uncle, who has a disability
  • Vivian Baxter Johnson: Maya and Bailey Jr's Mother
  • Mr. Freeman: Vivian's sugar daddy and Maya's rapist
  • Mrs. Flowers: Maya's Idol, who she has a girl crush on
  • Daddy Clidell: He acts like a good father to Maya

Major Issue

Throughout the book Maya doesn't exactly ever have it "easy". She always struggles with being sent around the family and doesn't have what we call today a steady home. She is raised by her grandmother and uncle, who are actually really harsh when raising her and her brother. This is not as bad as it sounds, because her grandmother really does want the best for the children. Like I said earlier, this was the time period when the Ku Klux Klan was in their prime and were considered a big deal. When the children decided that living with their mother was something they could do, they didn't realize that it was going to be the start of something awful. Their mother was a great woman that the describe as beautiful, who also has a good education. There really only is one problem with their mom, which is the fact that she provides for them through what they called "sugar daddies". The major issue of the whole book starts when one of these sugar daddies, Mr. Freeman, rapes Maya. This man goes to jail, but when he gets out he is killed. Maya instantly goes silent because of a little bit of guilt. Her family does not get why she is suddenly mute and this is when Maya and Bailey Jr. are sent back to Momma in Stamps. Maya also becomes pregnant near the end of the book, which completely freaks her out. She does not know how she will handle everything.

My Response

I was surprised when...

I was surprised when I read the part about small girls coming to Momma's store and completely disrespecting her. I did not really realized that since these young girls were white they thought that coming into a black woman's store and making a fool of her was okay. Living in the world we live in today makes it a little hard to believe that someone would do that. In our small towns, we treat business owners the same, no matter their race and I wouldn't want it any other way. These girls did something quite embarrassing and if I saw a young girl do something like it today, I would be completely ashamed for her.

My Favorite Part

I loved the scene when Maya meets Mrs. Flowers, because you know that this was exactly what Maya needed in her life. She had what we would call a "girl crush" on Mrs. Flowers, who helps her to move on from the awful things in Maya's life. She does this by showing Maya poetry, which gives her the boost she needed to stand up for what she believes in. Maya goes on to fight for race rights, which is a big deal since she is a young woman and they are not exactly respected at this time, especially since she is a young black woman.

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