Thursday, May 29, 2014

I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing. RIP Maya Angelou

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


I had read Maya's articles in various newspapers and online sites and I always felt intrigued by her words. Then I googled her name one day and based on the recommendations, picked up 'I Know Why Caged Birds Sings' book to read.

I finished the thick, 300 page long book in three days! Such was the Maya effect.

I know why the caged birds sing is an auto-biography of Maya that tells the tale of her life from the age of four to seventeen. It is the most profound book of all the seven autobiographical books that Maya has written.



Actually named as Marguerite but nicknamed as Bailey, her older brother and best pal, Maya and Bailey are set out on a train at the age of four and eight respectively, to live with their grandmother (whom they call Momma) and uncle Willie.

During her stay with her Momma, Maya lives a comfortable life as her Momma is relatively wealthy but experiences racism continually. Starting from the school days to graduating ceremony where they are told that Blacks have lesser employment opportunities. As a kid, Maya has to visit a dentist to get a tooth treated that caused her excruciating pain but the dentist refuses to treat her. This happens despite the fact that Momma once had loaned some money to this dentist and he had not repaid it. Yet he refuses to lay his hands on 'dirty teeth of a Negro'.

As Maya and Bailey spend some good time at Stamps (thats where they live with their Momma), they are now taken by their rich father to be left with their mother in Missourie. Her mother gives Maya the ambitions and encouragement to pursue her studies and hobbies but here she is raped by her mother's boyfriend.

A court trial begins and Mr. Freeman (mother's boyfriend) is found guilty. He is then killed (probably by Maya's uncles).  The incident leaves Maya feeling guilty of a person's death and she begins to become reclusive. She almost stops talking but remains close to her brother Bailey.

Maya then comes back to Stamps and there she meets a lady who gives her the gift of books.

Maya discovers herself through the books and then goes on to write her own books that allow her readers to discover themselves. The book ends at the age of seventeen when Maya gives birth to her first son, after having a sexual relationship with a young teenage boy.

I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing is a story of a young girl trying to find her foot in the world. It covers all the experiences that we come across - discrimination, love, separation from parents, insurgency, love, exploitation and sex.

The book is written in a very simple, flowing language that it grasps you in such a way that once picked up, you won't put it down.

The writing is poignant, poetry like yet real. The pages smoothly take you through the years passing by as you try to live through the times, yourself.

Yesterday, Maya Angelou passed away. The world has lost a literary genius.

When it comes to writing about women and the atrocities they face from time to time, there are two authors that I salute - Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison.

I have already reviewed Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, which is another masterpiece from a legendary author.

Maya's demise has left me in a state of brood. We all have some sour experiences in life. This is same for everyone. But some make a life out of them while some make a misery. Maya made a life, an enormous life. 

An accomplished author, a singer, a poet and a noted writer, Maya taught some important lessons to the world through her writings. Most important of them all is this one -


Doesn't matter if Maya belonged to a relatively wealthy family. She had gone through some of the life's most difficult situations and that could have marred her spirit. But it was her will that led her to succeed. Not just as a professional but also as a person.

About the book - If you want to read something that inspires you in the most subtle way, I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing is the book to be picked up. 

If you wish to purchase the book, please buy it from the link below. It would take you straight to the Flipkart and I would get a small token of your support. 

4 comments:

  1. Wow! I totally dig your book review Surabhi! Very well written and so sad to know that we've lost such a literary genius.

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    1. Shireen, so glad you liked it!!! :D Day is made. :)

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  2. Hey Surbhi, I like reading what u write....and i like ur book reviews....have gone into archive and read some old posts of urs.....one complaint! U dont write often......
    and are u back frm Anadamans?

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    1. Hi Anu, I am glad at your complaint. Thanks for complaining.. :) Yeah, I am back from Andamans and now in the crazy mainland. Its kinda culture shock for me.. so I am taking time to get my mental peace. But would sincerely try to write more often. :)

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