“A brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman” ~ US President Barack Obama



Maya Angelou passed away recently (May 28, 2014 – aged 86), and I was a great fan of her work and her outlook. However, although I had read much of her poetry I had never read her most famed piece of work, her memoirs I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, something I would have to rectify.

Last week I finally picked it up and started to read and what a gift that beautiful lady had with words. It’s a stunningly beautiful piece of writing even before you get well stuck into the subject matter, and it’s written with crushing honesty. There is a skill to being able to recall not only events from your childhood, but to also evoke the sentiments you felt at the time, and it’s a skill Maya has in abundance.

Starting from her early childhood the book follows Maya’s journey into adulthood, and as expected it wasn’t the easiest book to read, falling hard on the heart in parts. Her honest portrayal of her childhood feelings is often excruciating and I found myself often having to remind myself that this child grew up to write the line ‘Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I’ve got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs?’ in her poem Still I Rise.

If you’ve wondered where Maya Angelou got her steely nature and determination from then this really is a must read. Writing that flows like a babbling stream, honest portrayals of a life gone by and subjective philosophy make I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings an unmissable tale in why the human spirit endures, and indeed why the caged bird sings.


Reviewed by:

Kath Cross

Added 10th August 2015

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Kath Cross