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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the initially of seven autobiographical functions by Amerihave the right to writer Maya Angelou, publiburned in 1969. The book chronicles her life from age 3 through age 16, recounting an unsettled and occasionally traumatic childhood that contained rape and also racism. It came to be among the most extensively review and also taught books created by an Afrihave the right to Amerideserve to woguy.



The prologue explains an occasion in which Angelou, as a little son, is reciting a poem in church. Feeling ugly bereason she imagined in vain that the dress her grandmom made her would certainly be so pretty that she would certainly be viewed as a beautiful white child, she forgets the poem and also then wets her pants as she flees the church in embarrassment.

The story starts in 1931, as Maya, age 3, and her elder brvarious other, Bailey, are sent out to Stamps, Arkansas, to live via their paternal grandmother, whom they speak to Momma, after their parents’ breakup. Momma owns the only keep in the African Amerihave the right to component of tvery own. The kids resolve into life via Momma, helping her at the save and also finding out to check out and execute arithmetic. One night a former sheriff warns Momma to hide her disabled son because white males are planning revenge after a Babsence man “messed with” a white woguy. Later a group of young white girls ridicule Momma while she stands, dignified and unmoving, exterior the store. When the Great Depression hits, Momma keeps the keep from going under by allowing customers to profession their rations for goods. One Christmas, Maya and Bailey get presents from their paleas, whom they assumed to be dead. A year later on their father, Daddy Bailey, arrives in an intricate auto, and also he takes Maya and Bailey to St. Louis to live via their mom, the beautiful Vivian.

At first they continue to be through Vivian’s mommy and also their uncles. At college, Maya and her brvarious other are more advanced than the other students, and they are relocated up a grade. Later the children move in through Vivian and also her boyfrifinish, Mr. Freeman. Mr. Freeman begins molesting eight-year-old Maya, threatening to kill Bailey if she tells anyone. One day he rapes her, and also she conceals her stained underwear under the mattress. When transforming the linens, Bailey and Vivian discover the garment and also realize what taken place. Throughout Mr. Freeman’s trial, Maya lies as soon as asked whether he touched her prior to the rape. Later Mr. Freeman is discovered dead, apparently having actually been bconsumed to death. Feeling guilty, Maya stops speaking to anyone except Bailey. After a couple of months of her silence, Maya and Bailey are sent out ago to Momma.

Maya is relieved to be ago in Stamps, however she proceeds her silence. Ultimately, the innovative Mrs. Bertha Flowers takes Maya under her wing, telling her that it is essential to soptimal and providing her books to review aloud, and she starts talking aobtain. At the age of 10, Maya is sent to work-related for a white womale, who calls her Mary rather than her name (Marguerite). Offfinished, Maya breaks some china in order to acquire fired. Later, Bailey is upcollection when he sees a movie starring Kay Francis bereason he thinks the actress looks simply like Vivian, and he renders an uneffective attempt to go back to his mother. Maya later on renders her initially friend, Louise Kendricks, a girl from school. Throughout this time, Maya proceeds to encounter racism. When she creates cavities, Momma takes her to the white dentist who borrowed money from Momma in the time of the Depression, however he refsupplies to treat the child, and they need to take a bus to the closest Black dentist. Bailey later sees the decaying corpse of a Babsence man pulled out of a pond, and a white guy provides him assist some Black males lug the body right into the jail. After the occurrence, Momma decides to take Maya and also Bailey earlier to their mom.

Maya and Bailey move through their mom to Oakland also, California. Tbelow Maya athas a tendency a school in which she is among only 3 Black students. When she is 14 years old, she is awarded a scholarship to the The golden state Labor School, wright here she researches drama and dance. Vivian’s new husband, Daddy Clidell, becomes a genuine father number to Maya.

Maya spends a summer in southerly The golden state with Daddy Bailey and his girlfrifinish, Dolores. Dolores and Maya do not gain alengthy. One day, Daddy Bailey takes Maya through him on a shopping expedition to Mexico. Maya enjoys the excursion until she loses track of her father, that inevitably retransforms to their auto as well drunk to drive. Although she has actually never before pushed prior to, Maya manperiods to drive them to the border, where she hits another car. At this point, Daddy Bailey wakes up, pacifies the various other driver, and then drives the remainder of the means home. Upon their return, Daddy Bailey and also Dolores argue, and also he walks out. Maya tries to console Dolores, however Dolores insults Vivian, leading Maya to slap her. Dolores then cuts Maya, that decides to run amethod. After spfinishing a night in a junkyard, she awakens to discover a community of Black, white, and Mexihave the right to runameans living tright here. She stays for a month and then returns to Vivian.

In the meantime, Bailey has actually come to be friends through “a team of slick street boys” and also begun dating a white prostitute. At the age of 16 he leaves house, to his sister’s great sorrow. Maya browbeats the transit agency right into hiring her as the initially female Afrihave the right to Amerihave the right to streetauto conductor in San Francisco. However before, after spfinishing one semester at the job, she retransforms to institution. She later on reads the lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness (1928) by Radclyffe Hall, and also, misexpertise what lesbianism is, she starts to are afraid that she can be a lesbian. Though Vivian tries to reascertain her, she is not assuaged, and also she determines to have sex through a boy. The enrespond to is unpleasant, and it outcomes in Maya’s becoming pregnant. On Bailey’s advice, she keeps the news to herself and retransforms to institution. After graduating from high college, Maya tells Vivian and Daddy Clidell, who are fully supportive. After Guy is born, Vivian assures Maya that she will be a great mother.


The book’s title came from the poem “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Against the backdrop of racial tensions in the South, Angelou faced the traumatic events of her childhood and explored the development of her strong identity as an Afrideserve to American woguy. Her individual and also cultural feelings of displacement were mediated with her passion for literary works, which proved both healing and also empowering.

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After the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Angelou was influenced by a meeting via writer James Baldwin and cartoonist Jules Feiffer to compose I Kcurrently Why the Caged Bird Sings as a means of handling the death of her frifinish and to draw attention to her own individual struggles with racism. The book was immediately well-known and also stayed on best-seller lists for 2 years. Angelou cocomposed the screenplay for the 1979 tv movie variation of the story, which starred Esther Rolle as Momma and Diahann Carroll as Vivian.