Book Analysis

“A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” -Maya Angelou

Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House Trade Paperbacks. 1969.

That's her right there ^

Any who, Maya Angelou was born on April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis Missouri.  She was raised back and forth between St. Louis, Missouri, as well as Stamps, Arkansas.  Her parents were not very good parents in her early childhood, so she and her brother, Bailey were raised mainly by their grandmother.
She was San Fansico's first African-American cable car conductor, she fought endlessly for the rights that she and other African Americans so deserved.  She also had many internal emotional and mental struggles. 

But through it all, Maya Angelou rose to be a strong, brave, independent woman with a knack for the art of literature.

Maya Angelou is a successful, creative author.  She has wrote many other books such as "Letter to My Daughter", "I Shall Not Be Moved", "Gather Together in My Name", "Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas" and "My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me" just to name a few. 

And, being the super talented chick she is, Maya Angelou also did a lot of singing, dancing, and acting.  Ever heard of "Touched by an Angel"?  She was on it.  

Maya Angelou has the voice of an angel, to be sure.  She is a beautiful, strong, brave, determined, multi-talented woman, and I can only hope to be like her one day.

The book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is about Maya Angelou's harsh early life.  From sexual abuse to racial discrimination, she has truly seen it all.  I think the book is rightly named because through everything, she finally realized why her fellow African Americans dared to wish and to dream when all seemed lost.  She realized that its all in human nature; when everything seems lost, there are those that still dare to dream, hope, and reach out to their fellow man. 
The cage represents racial discrimination as well as Maya's own fears.  The bird represents anyone that has ever been hurt, oppressed, lied to, or betrayed that still possesses the audacity to sing-- and to hope for a better life.

Some of the most important people in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings are Momma (Angelou's grandmother) and Uncle Willie, Bailey, Mother, Father, Mrs. Flowers, and Mr. Freeman

Momma and Uncle Wille- They're important because they did the majority of raising for Angelou and Bailey.  They also created Angelou's love of learning by always pushing her (and Bailey) to give everything 110%

Bailey- He is Angelou's only brother, and they were very close.  They seemed to share everything-including secrets.  He was able to get away with more than her, but he always made her feel better no matter what.

Mother and Father- They're Angelou's parents, so they're rather important too.  At first, they weren't the greatest; when Angelou and her brother were very young, their parents shipped them off to live with their grandmother without warning.  When the two were a bit older, their father came to visit, and brought them to live with their mother.  Angelou was 8 and Bailey was 10 or 11.  When 8 year old Angelou was raped by her mother's boyfriend, she and Bailey went back to Stamps.  A few years after, they lived with their mother once again.

Mr. Freeman- The reason Angelou and Bailey left the first time, and the reason Angelou was never the same.  When Angelou was with her mother the first time, she would sometimes have nightmares, or be unable to sleep.  On these nights, she would crawl into bed with her mother and Freeman like any little kid would.  One day when her mother had already left for work, Angelou was still sleeping, and Freeman was still there.  He did the unthinkable that day; he raped her.  After the first time, there was evidence in Angelou's underwear, so out of shame, she hid them.  He did this to her more than once, and she told no one because Freeman threatened to kill Bailey.  When her mother finally found out, she was furious.  She kicked out Freeman, and took him to trial.  Due to fear, little Angelou lied on the stand, and Freeman went free.  But not for long, because he was later murdered by her uncles. 

Mrs. Flowers- After the rape, Angelou almost never spoke.  She felt dirty, and contaminated.  Mrs. Flowers was the first person to reach out to Angelou.  Mrs. Flowers gave Angelou books to read and poems to recite to get her speaking again, and to remind her that what happened was not in any way her fault.

Two places mentioned in the book are the Store and Mother's home in San Francisco  The formal name of the Store was Wm. Johnson General Merchandise Store, but Angelou, Bailey and almost everyone else just called it "The Store".  It is a cross between a grocery store and a small dinner. 
Mother's home was a fourteen-room typical San Franciscan post-earthquake affair.  They often rented out rooms to people.

Some things that happened:
1)Angelou and her brother are abandoned by their parents and sent to Stamps.  This is the beginning of the novel and as far back as Angelou can remember
2) Angelou develops a  silent connection with Uncle Willie and better understands him after a conversation with some wealthy people who visit the store
3) Gets a taste of prejudice and has to deal with "powhite trash". (They're disrespectful little buggers.)  This is when young Angelou gets her first real taste of ignorance.
4)Father and Mother send Bailey and Angelou Christmas gifts, which re-opens their packed away pain and questions; Father comes to visit and then takes them to live with their mother in St. Louis, Missouri
5) Freeman rapes 8 year old Angelou, who is later murdered by her uncles.  This changes her life forever, and she is never the same; it is also because of this that Angelou and Bailey move back to Stamps
6) Mrs. Flowers does her best to coax Angelou into speaking again by giving her books and poems.  She is the first person to really reach out to Angelou, and tries to prove that what happened with Mr. Freeman is not her fault.
7) Angelou and Bailey move back in with their mother in San Francisco and Angelou gets involved in dance.  This gives Angelou a sense of identity.  She begins to move past old boundaries and just be herself.
8)Angelou stays with her father a while, visits Mexico, deals with and is hurt by her father's crazy fiance and lives as a homeless teen for a month or so.  This gives her a taste of the real world, and not just the people in it.
9) becomes the first African American cable car conductor.  Need I say more?  This is where she knowingly pushes the boundaries of segregation.  That takes guts and bravery.  I respect that. 
10) graduates high school and gives birth to her son Guy. 

Page 143:
S-Valentines and a boy named Tommy
O- When Angelou was in the 7th grade 
A- Anyone with a similar experience of a first love
P-To show that life goes on
S- 12 year old Maya Angelou
Tone- some regret, but a lot of good feelings and giggles

I think the best parts of the book are chapters 30 and 31.  In chapter 30, Angelou takes a surprise trip to Mexico with her father where she parties hardy, practices her Spanish, gets to know a different side to her father, and teaches herself to drive.  This is again a harsh taste of reality.  This type stuff happens all the time. 
In chapter 31, Angelou tells her father's fiance what for, but is severely injured by the fiance in the process.  She later runs away and lives with a group of homeless teens for several weeks.  This again is a lesson in real life.  Some people are mentally unstable, and some aren't. 

This book is full of happiness, pain, joy, worlds of hurt, and new beginnings.  Unforgettable and never with a dull moment, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a story of abandonment, ignorance, and the power of words.  It is Maya Angelou's first book, and one of her greatest. 
At a young age, she and her brother Bailey are sent to live with their overly religious grandmother in the tiny town of Stamps, Arkansas, the two endure pain beyond pain of being left alone in the world, and prejudice. 
When she was eight, Angelou and her brother went back to live with their mother in St. Louis, Missouri.  A man does the unthinkable to young Maya, and she pays the price for it her entire life.  But years later, through love, kind people, the greatest authors to ever exist, and the pure determination of the times, she learns to let go of the past and look to the future.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is powerful, filled with hope, descriptive, will pull your heart strings, make you wonder why people are the way the are, and make you want to turn heads and change minds.

I would deffinatly recommend I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to my fellow (and future) AP Langers.  It's powerful, poetic, questioning, and all inspiring.  This is my new favorite, and honestly one of the best I have ever read.  (However, if you are faint of heart, or easily discucted withother people, I don't reccomend it.)  I laughed, I cried, and I long to be as great as Maya Angelou one day because of this book.