I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

As just three and four year olds, Maya Angelou and her brother, Bailey, are put on a train and shipped all the way from California to their grandmother who lives in the small town of Stamps, Arkansas. Their parents are divorced, and although neither of them has ever seen their grandmother, they are aware that she is NOT their mother. Nevertheless, they adopt to this very new lifestyle and accept Mrs. Henderson (their grandmother) as the person that will raise them; they even call her “Momma.”

Their situation seems to only gets worse from there. Their father visits, and after a few weeks with him, he decides to take them to see their mother in St. Louis. Maya and Bailey, against their wills, go to St. Louis for an entire year. They love their mother, but Mr. Freeman, their mother’s boyfriend, is a different story. Maya and Bailey end up leaving St. Louis and going back to Stamps. They grow up, and eventually move in with their mother (who moves to California).

Maya and Bailey’s lives twist and turn in the rest of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Maya Angelou does a great job of making the book flow, despite the frequently used southern dialect. The only distracting aspect of the book is that she often uses religious references, which can be hard to understand if the reader is not religious. She relates her experiences with plenty of details. Teenagers can especially relate to Maya’s experiences, but this book could be enjoyed by adults too. It also is a first-hand account of racism during the Civil Rights Movement.  Angelou has also written Gather Together in My Name, The Heart of a Woman, I Shall Not be Moved, Even the Stars Look Lonesome, and others. She has written poems as well.