Through her autobiography, Maya Angelou remembers her greatest fears and troubles, from childhood through motherhood. Marguerite Johnson, as you will come to know her, lived a difficult life, partially due to her ethnicity and partially due to her innocent gullibility. We meet her as a three-year-old. Her father had left her and her brother to live with their grandma in the small Southern town of Stamps. She grows up learning about prejudice between her kind and the "powhitefolk." Maya's father returns from California to take his children to see their mother in St. Louis. Here Maya is traumatized when she is raped by her mother's boyfriend.
After the incident, she returns to Stamps, where she is invited to tea with Mrs. Flowers, one of the most prominent African-Americans in Stamps. While there, Maya is told that "words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of deeper meaning." It is here that Maya finds out how to be a true lady.
By reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, you will better understand racism's evils. If you're feeling down because of your race, you'll feel on top again. As Maya says, "We survived. The depths had been icy and dark, but now a bright sun spoke to our souls. I was no longer simply a member of the proud graduating class of 1940; I was a proud member of the wonderful, beautiful Negro race." After reading this book, you too will "know why the caged bird sings." .
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.