‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ is the first book in a series of autobiographies by the African-American poet, writer, civil rights activist and my namesake, Maya Angelou. It is the most well known and most critically acclaimed book out of the 7 autobiographies. The book talks of Maya’s childhood and coming of age.
It barely took me any time to fall in love with Maya Angelou. Some friends of mine joked about it, saying it was because we shared a name and I’ll admit that maybe that’s a part of it (I am sort of obsessed with my name), but it’s also so much more than that. Maya was incredibly inspiring. She was strong and intelligent and persistent even through the toughest times in her life.
Being an African-American in Southern USA during a time when racism was rampant, it was difficult. Despite having to deal with racism, Maya also constantly felt like she didn’t belong anywhere. Her parents abandoned her and her brother when she was only 3 years old and she spent her early years in Arkansas with her grandmother. For a while, ‘white’ people barely seemed real to her. But later on, she started to feel the effects of racism. Due to her feeling of not belonging anywhere and the lack of any sort of physical affection in her life, she went through a horrible experience. She was raped when she was 8 years old and she didn’t even know enough to realize that it wasn’t her fault. She blamed herself for it and refused to talk to anyone, but her brother after the incident. The incident made her precocious and affected her life in ways she wasn’t quite equipped to deal with. But she pulled through anyway.
Maya had strong women in her life to look up to like her grandmother (Momma) and her mother (Vivian Baxter). She endured everything that came her way. She shunned the racist ideals in the world around her and as an act of defiance, she became the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco. She went through so many things and came out stronger. All of this made her so inspiring. The book, ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ was beautiful and it gave me a look into the early stages of Maya’s life while also making me aspire to be strong and brave and amazing like she was. Even her poems are very meaningful and the one I took a particular liking to was ‘Still I Rise’. The first few lines lines of the poem are:
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies.
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
She’s my most recent obsession and she is absolutely brilliant. I have 6 more autobiographies and a lot of poems to read which I’m totally looking forward to. The cool part about this is that we share a name! That’s awesome! Even though ‘Maya’ wasn’t her actual name. You’ll know how she got the name if you read the book. Sharing a name with her doesn’t make me any greater as a person, but I know that I want to be like her.