kirstennnnnn (kirstennnnnn) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

book 27:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I had mixed feelings about this book.  I think it is well-written, and I appreciated the description of many of the events that shaped Angelou's life.  At the same time, I think I expected more...hearing about the book as much as I have.  As has been previously mentioned, this book is a biopic covering Angelou's childhood up through her teenage years.  What I liked best where some of the descriptions of her life in segregated Arkansas and a couple of spots throughout where she paused to comment on how common experiences evolved into modern black culture, for example, the use of "ebonics"...although she did not use that term herself.  I felt I understood a little better.  On the flipside, I felt alienated from the novel by a sense that she put out that because I am white, I could not possibly understand.  Those feelings made it more difficult to identify with her experiences, which I had done prior to feeling shoved away, in a manner of speaking.  I'm not black, but I have experienced prejudicial thoughts and actions based on external characteristics.  We don't have to live the same lives to identify with one another, or else we might as well give up because humanity is beyond hope for compassion and understanding.  Anyway, fair or not, I also was a bit disappointed with some of her, an obviously bright girl developing another teenaged pregnancy.  I know it was another side-effect of her life experiences, but there is a kind of Angelou mythology that builds her up to superhuman proportions that was let down to see that she made screwed-up choices like everyone else.  I don't blame her, per se.  To her credit, she absolutely took responsibility for everything she did, regardless of the hard things she experienced or the blessings she had (because really, compared to many she had some incredibly supportive people in her life).  I think some of the let down comes from my inate dislike of reading biographies.  I struggle enough in my own life.  If I read about someone else, I want to find inspiration to be someone better than what I am or at the least to be able to understand myself better.  I don't feel like I really got that.  In spite of my gripes, though, I do think it is a good book and a worthwhile read.  I would have just been better off if I hadn't heard so much "hype" about it, I think.  Who knows, though.
Tags: african-american lit, autobiography, modern classic, non-fiction, race

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