I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

This is the autobiography of Maya Angelou's harsh and unpleasant childhood. She and her brother were shuttled from relatives in the dirt poor rural south to then live for a time in St. Louis with their pretty but irresponsible mother. Eventually they met their father. The book shows the ignorance and prejudice of both black and white people in the 30's and 40's. In St. Louis, Maya is molested as a young girl by an acquaintance of her mother. In California, she becomes a delinquent and lives on the streets and in abandoned cars while in her teens. By the time she is in high school she has become pregnant with a child.
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The review of this Book prepared by David Fletcher

Maya Angelou's autobiography is an honest and gripping story of her early life as a poor, black girl of the rural South in the 1920's. She is abandoned by her parents to be raised along with her brother by relatives, only to have her mother and father each drift back into her life later on. She details the hardships faced including racism, sexual molestation, poverty and ignorance.

Her reunion with her mother in St Louis disrupts her young life with tragic results as she is molested by a family friend. Eventually she winds up in San Francisco and at one point runs away and lives on the street and in cars. She perserveres to complete high school and work toward a productive future.
The review of this Book prepared by a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

I Know Why the Caged Bird sings is the autobiography of Maya Angelou. She tells of the hardships she experienced in her youth, beginning with her parents' divorce when Angelou was only three years old. As a result of the divorce, Maya and her older brother are sent to live with their grandmother in a small, Arkansas town. Here, she experiences the horrors of racism and learns to hate herself for not being white. When she is eight, Maya goes to live with her mother in St. Louis. There, she is sexually abused by her mother's live-in boyfriend, and is emotionally scarred by the terrible experience. Finally, after Maya has become aware of racial prejudice and religious hypocrisy, she begins to find her voice. Maya's mother marries a man who proves to be a positive father figure, and the family moves to Los Angeles. Here, Maya spends her teenage years being defiant and getting herself into a lot of trouble. When she becomes pregnant in her senior year of high school, however, she gains the confidence to become a strong woman and a good mother to her child.
The review of this Book prepared by Judy Berman

Chapter Analysis of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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Plot & Themes

Kids growing up/acting up?    -   Yes Kids:    -   parental abuse job/profession:    -   writer Ethnic/Relig. of subject (inside)    -   Black Gender/Class story?    -   woman's story Job/profession/poverty story    -   Yes Ethnic/regional/gender    -   Yes Period of greatest activity?    -   1950+

Subject of Biography

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   writer Ethnicity    -   Black Nationality    -   American


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   1 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Deep South City?    -   Yes Small town?    -   Yes Century:    -   1930's-1950's

Writing Style

Book makes you feel?    -   thoughtful Graphic sex in book?    -   Yes If this is a kid's book:    -   Age 16-Adult Pictures/Illustrations?    -   None How much of bio focuses on most famous period of life?    -   0-25% of book

Books with storylines, themes & endings like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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