The poet/dancer/author/director/historian's famous masterpiece memoir weaves the story of her childhood into a fabric of timeless truth and heritage. Rich in cultural traditions and regional variances, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is a book I recommend if you are looking for intrigue and insight into human character.
Raised for several years in Depression-Era Arkansas by her grandmother (Momma), and also in St. Louis and then California by her Mother (Mother Dear), Maya (Marguerite) and her brother Bailey share adventures, tragedy, books, and a love of life - through it all. Angelou's imagery and poetic prose describe African American perseverance from the fountain of deep wounds, bringing life to life for those of us who have never known. So why would a caged bird sing? Because her song, so composed and free, cannot be contained, though her wings might be ever-stayed.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
[on books:] “I have tried often to search behind the sophistication of years for the enchantment I so easily found in those gifts. The essence escapes but its aura remains. To be allowed, no invited, into the private lives of strangers, and to share their joys and fears, was a chance to exchange the Southern bitter wormwood for a cup of mead with Beowulf or a hot cup of tea and milk with Oliver Twist. “
“I find it interesting that the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God’s will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scare of responsibility at a commensurate speed.”
“I could tell he meant to kill my brother. Neither of us had done anything to him. And then.
Then there was the pain. A breaking and entering when even the senses are torn apart. The act of rape on an eight-year-old body is a matter of the needle giving because the camel can’t. The child gives because the body can, and the mind of the violator cannot.
I thought I had died –
… Could I tell her now? The terrible pain assured me that I couldn’t. What he did to me, and what I allowed, must have been very bad if already God let me hurt so much. If Mr. Freeman was gone, did that mean Bailey was out of danger? And if so, if I told him, would he still love me?”
“Under the tent of blanket, which was poled by my elbow and forearm, the baby slept touching my side.Mother whispered, ‘See, you don’t have to think about doing the right thing. If you’re for the right thing, then you do it without thinking.’She turned out the light and I patted my son’s body lightly and went back to sleep.”
Happy reading, Friends!
What's on your nightstand this Summer?