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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Page history last edited by maureen@wordsworthy.com 9 years, 9 months ago
Maya Angelou
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) is the first of six autobiographies written by Maya Angelou. This coming-of-age story brings us from the time she was around three until she was sixteen and a mother.   Her grandmother was a very important part of her life and her upbringing, raising Maya (Marguerite) and her brother, Bailey, in Stamps, Arkansas, in the Negro part of town. Despite her security in her grandmother’s house, she couldn’t help but be aware of larger, prejudicial and dangerous forces around her. And when she was raped in her mother’s house, she learned that danger can come from any source.  (SEE ALSO the movie of the same name.)
More by Maya Angelou
(This is not a complete bibliography.)
Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer. 2006.
Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me. 2006.
Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem. 2005.
The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou. 2004.
            I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (c. 1969, 1997)
            Gather Together in My Name (c. 1974, 2002)
            Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas (1976)
            The Heart of a Woman (1981)
            All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes (1986)
            A Song Flung up to Heaven (2002)
Hallelujah! The Welcome Table. 2004.
And Still I Rise. 2001. [art by Diego Rivera, edited by Linda Sunshine. A single poem]
Phenomenal Woman. 2000. [painting by Paul Gauguin; edited by Linda Sunshine. A single poem]
Even the Stars Look Lonesome. 1998.
The Challenge of Creative Leadership. 1997. [with contributions from the International Zermatt Symposia on Creativity in Economics, Arts and Science by Maya Angelou…et al]
Poems. 1997. [Selections]
Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now. 1997.
Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African American Women Artists. 1996. [Jontyle Theresa Robinson, curator; contributions by Maya Angelou…et al.]  http://www.tfaoi.com/newsm1/n1m280.htm 
A Celebration with Maya Angelou, Guy Johnson, Janice Mirikitani on the Occasion of Guy Johnson’s 50th Birthday. 1996. [sound recording]
A Brave and Startling Truth. 1995.
The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou. 1994.
Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women. 1994.
Life Doesn’t Frighten Me. 1993. [paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat; edited by Sara Jane Boyers. Single poem]
On the Pulse of Morning. 1993.
I Shall Not Be Moved. 1990.
Conversations with Maya Angelou. 1989. [edited by Jeffrey M. Elliot]
Now Sheba Sings the Song. 1987. [art by Tom Feelings]
Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing? 1983.
And Still I Rise. 1971.
Maya Angelou: A Wonderful Interview with a Very Special Woman. 1975? [Sound Recording]
Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me. 1975.
Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie: The Poetry of Maya Angelou. 1971.
Miss Calypso. 1957. [Sound Recording]
About Maya Angelou
(Does not include monographs)
Official Web Site
Academy of Achievement [Inducted 1990]
African American Literature Book Club
BBC Four “Books”
The Circle Associations’ Maya Angelou Pages
Guardian Unlimited
“Women of the Hall”  National Women’s Hall of Fame [inducted 1998]
“Maya Angelou Quotes” Brainy Quotes
Poets.org from the Academy of American Poets
St. Louis Walk of Fame. [inducted 1992]
VG: Voices from the Gaps: Women Artists and Writers of Color, An International Website
“America’s Renaissance Woman,” Academy of Achievement
Clark, Jerry. “Dr. Maya Angelou Talks with Foundations about Life, Kids, Education and the Importance of Afterschool,” Foundations for a Brighter Future, February, 2007.
Kelley, Ken. “Visions: Maya Angelou,” Mother Jones, May/June, 1995.
The New Sun “An Interview with Maya Angelou by David Frost”
“Oprah’s Cut with Maya Angelou,” O, the Oprah Magazine, December, 2000.
Smiley, Tavis, PBS, May 20, 2004
Swaim, Don. “Audio Interview with Maya Angelou,” Wired for Books, 1987.
Reviews of/Critical Works on I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Bloom, Harold, ed. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. 2004. [collection of critical essays]
Booklog [offers excerpts from some originally published reviews]
“BooksR4Teens,” University of Texas at Austin
Braxton, Joanne. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Casebook. 1999.
Erika C. Teen Ink
Malvern, HeidiJane, Adventures in Bookland
Southern Literary Review
Discussion Guide for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Challenged Books
Despite all the accolades showered on her, Maya Angelou has often been on the Challenged and Banned Books lists. She is ranked 8th in the American Library Association List of “Top Ten Challenged Authors 1990 to 2004” (out of 8,332 challenges reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom.  See link below.) Some of these books are challenged because of their presence on school library book shelves, and others because they have been assigned as required reading in the curriculum. (See second link below for a review of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by a group wanting to ban it.)
Maya Angelou is in good company; some other banned titles are:
Kingsolver, Barbara. The Bean Trees. 1988.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. 2000.
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 1595?
Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. 1989.
[The above 4 titles were taken from the same site as listed above: “Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools.”]
Canada has been embroiled in its own battle:
Ellis, Deborah. Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak. 2006.
[As indicated in the above site from Pelham Library, in 2006 Deborah Ellis was awarded the inaugural Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario Children’s Literature Award for her book.]
 The African-American Community
Of course when Angelou was growing up, her community would have been referred to as The Negro Community. Maya Angelou understood her place in her own community, but she had difficulty sorting out why she and her neighbours were treated as they were by The White Community. Her recognition of this difference came to a climax at her grade-eight graduation. And while her generation had to deal with overt segregation and violence at the hands of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the next generation also had/has its own brand of difficulties. 
Brown, Claude. Manchild in the Promised Land.  1965.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Dust Tracks on a Road. 1942.
Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. 1968.
Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose. 1983.
Wright, Richard, et al. 12 Million Black Voices. 1941, 2002. [photographs by Edwin Rosskam]
Grandmothers have been an integral part of the family since forever. And in today’s world of the AIDS scourge in Africa, this is proving to be even more so. Maya’s grandmother gave her a solid foundation, as so many grandmothers have done throughout society, throughout the ages.
Farmer, Penelope. The Virago Book of Grandmothers: An Autobiographical Anthology.  2000.
Kimbro, Dennis, comp. What Keeps Me Standing: A Black Grandmother’s Guide to Peace, Hope and Inspiration. 2003.
Mehdi, Sharon. The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering.   2005.
The Stephen Lewis Foundation. “Grandmother to Grandmother”
Thomas, Toni, ed. From Grandma with Love: A Legacy of Values: A Collection of Character-building Stories from Real Grandmothers. 1997.
Rising Above Her Challenges
At the end of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya is sixteen with a newborn child and no father for her child. One of the references in her bibliography is an audio rendition of her celebrating that child’s 50th birthday (See link below for a photo and text of that celebration).  Maya did more than rise above her challenges, and she raised her child, now a poet, with her.
Arnoldi, Katherine, The Amazing True Story of a Teenage Mom. 1998. [This is a memoir in graphic format, done by the author, now a successful illustrator.]
Fantasia. Life Is Not a Fairy Tale. 2005. [Fantasia is now an award-winning R& B singer, and an actress on Broadway.]
Gore, Ariel. Atlas of the Human Heart: A Memoir. 2003. [Ariel is the creator of the zine Hip Mama, and author of seven other books.]
Hall, Meredith. Without a Map. 2007. [Meredith Hall is an award-winning writer and a writing instructor at the University of New Hampshire.]
McElmurray, Karen Salyer. Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey. 2004. [McElmurray won the AWP Award in Creative Nonfiction for this under the title Mother of the Disappeared: An Appalachian Birth Mother’s Journey. http://www.awpwriter.org/pdf/asWinners2003.pdf], after writing an award-winning novel, Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven.]
(Created with the help of the Ramara Township Workshop participants. All Web sites accessed July, 2007. 
Maureen O'Connor, WordsWorthy/Connecting Books and Readers/ maureen@wordsworthy.com)


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