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am 8. Juni 2000
May I tell you why I choose to have my ninth grade students read it? I have noticed a lot of reviews by young people, which I applaud, but an adult perspective might be helpful.
I don't particularly feel the need to defend its merits. (I am not articulate enough to do justice to that task.) As with any book, some will love it and some won't. Guaranteed, it will make you uncomfortable at times, because one chapter describes the rape of a young person--which is painful for any compassionate human being to hear. Plus, there are other sexual issues, largely stemming from the earlier assault, but also because she is a teenager in the last phase of the book. Such questions about love and sex are characteristic of the teenage years. Many young people, as well as adults, are confused about such topics. While these are generally the most controversial segments from the book, the fundamental lesson of the book goes far beyond the survival of one victim. I won't supply you with the answers as to what one should take away from the text. It is a personal experience for each of us.
We can all learn from Maya's honest account of her childhood journey. We can all try on her experiences and live vicariously through her for a while, and see how it changes our own perspective on what it means to be a human being.
I'll be the first to admit, this book is a challenge for all my students in one way or another. Some because they are white and live in the northern US. Some because they are male and it's difficult to view life through a woman's eyes. Some because of the adult vocabulary and extensive use of figurative language. Some of these experiences are so remote from their own, while others are very close to home. It helps them to see how much we actually do have in common with those who at first seem very different. They all can benefit from reading it, if they give it a chance. (Adults may be better equiped to appreciate fully this text. However, young people can take so much from it. Maybe one day, we can have an abridged version, so it is still rich in language and meaning, yet condensed so more young people can access its many gifts.)
Beyond the darkness of some of those experiences (discrimination, rape, humilation and fear) lies a powerful sense of hope, dignity, determination and resilience. One of my favorite aspects of the book is its emphasis on the power of education, language and literacy. Throughout Maya's life--books, poetry, impassioned voices have all inspired her. Her autobiography is a moving tribute to a literate way of life and an enduring legacy to that tradition.
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am 16. Mai 2000
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, was one of the most touching books that I have ever read in my fourteen years of life. While reading To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, in my eighth grade English class, we were assigned to read an independent reading book on a similar topic.
"For the first semester, I was one of three black students in the school, and in that rarefied atmosphere I came to love my people more. Mornings as the streetcar traversed my ghetto I experienced a mixture of dread and trauma. I knew that all too soon we would be out of my familiar setting, and Blacks who were on the streetcar when I got on would all be gone and I alone would face forty blocks of neat streets, smooth lawns, white houses, and rich children." As a white female reader, I found Maya Angelou's views very interesting and different from what I had expected. Her point of view helped me to understand her and her feelings even more deeply than I already did. It also helped me to understand the contrast between the races at the time.
"I guess it ain't your fault if Uncle Atticus is a n----r-lover besides, but I'm here to tell you it certainly does mortify the rest of the family-" says one of the white main character's cousins in To Kill A Mockingbird.
Both books portray racism in America in the earlier part of the twentieth century and the great similarities and differences between the two races. One of the similarities in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and To Kill A Mockingbird was religion. Religion was a very large factor in both a white and black person's life in the two books. However, while religion was important to the different races, it was for very different reasons.
In the African-American community, God was someone to love and praise for his support, love, and care. Church offered a chance to become closer to God and to ask for his love, help, and forgiveness. It was also a place to embrace other people in the community and to help them, too. Unlike the white citizens, the blacks go to great lengths to be at a place of worship.
For example, in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, a black couple exhausted from an almost twelve-hour work day come into Maya Angelou's grandmother's store to buy food. That night at a church gathering, a young Maya elaborates on how she saw the same couple there with their children, full of energy and life as they prayed to God. Another example of love and support in a black church is in To Kill A Mockingbird. While a member of the black community, Tom Robinson, is on trial for a crime he didn't commit, the church members gather together to help him. They start an offering for Tom's wife and children to help support them while he is unable to work.
In the white community, church is considered to be more of a social experience. Even though in both books religion is widely discussed and referred to by the white characters, church isn't shown to have any great significance to an individual. Another difference between the two races is their different opinions of God. While the African-Americans love and praise God, the whites see God as an almighty power who one should fear.
In both books the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Catholic churches are mentioned, but they are only mentioned in reference to white people and their churches. In the black community there is only one church -- a Christian one. The white churchgoers felt it necessary to differentiate themselves from the rest of the community, even though they were all praying to the same God.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is a wonderfully written book about the experiences of a young African-American woman growing up in a racist society. The reader grows up along with Maya Angelou as she is violated by close friends, betrayed by family, experiences racism, and learns to become independent. It is a wonderfully descriptive and captivating book that should be required to be read by all Americans.
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Dieser erste Band von Maya Angelous Autobiografie beschreibt ihre Kindheit und Jugend bis zur Geburt ihres Sohnes. Ein Leben in Kalifornien während des Zweiten Weltkriegs, inmitten von Armut, Gewalt und Rassismus. Doch die spätere Dr. Angelou gibt nicht auf. Es gelingt ihr, die erste schwarze Straßenbahnschaffnerin zu werden. Die Energie und Lebensweisheit ihrer Mutter hilft ihr, sich durchzusetzen.
Als dieses Buch 1969 erschien, war es eine Sensation, ein bahnbrechendes Zeugnis direkt aus der afroamerikanischen Community heraus. Auch heute noch ist diese Biografie lesenswert. Die Lektüre macht deutlich, wieviel die Bürgerrechtsbewegung seit damals geschafft hat, aber auch, wieviel es noch zu tun gibt. Danke an die Autorin, die Menschen eine Stimme gibt, die normalerweise selten zu hören sind.
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am 30. November 1998
I've never read Maya Angelou before and I was really impressed by her style. I've enjoyed this book because although it describes in a very detailed way the very sad aspects of racism; it also describes certain situations with a good sense of humour. It also portrays the values and richness of the African American Culture. The book is full of different "feelings" which make you laugh, cry and let you be part of the different stages in which Maya goes through. I like the way she clarifies different situations in which the African American way of dealing with things is described, because this let you see the situation from their point of view and at the same time introduces you to their culture. I enjoy the detailed narration of the sad and the happy moments of her life. It is also very easy to perceive her relationship with the different people in her life. This book is one of those which you don't want to finish, so I'm looking forward to reading the following titles of her autobiography because I really want to know more about the way her life has developed and to be treated again by her powerful narrative style. What a wonderful woman she must be!
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am 16. Mai 2000
I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou for my 8th grade English class. In class, we read and analyzed To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee as well. Both of these books were written by women who grew up in the South during the time when white superiority was a common belief. The main character's personalities and lives in their stories closly resemble the authors'. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, black characters are more developed and see white people as rude and repulsive. In To Kill a Mockingbird, white characters are more developed. Black people are seen as criminals with the exception of Scout and her family. Note that in To Kill a Mockingbird the main characters are white. Marguerite, a black girl, (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) spent much of her childhood searching for parent figures, yet her parents didn't provide the love and comfort she dreamed they would give her once she lived with them. Scout, a white girl, (To Kill a Mockingbird) grew up without her mother, but was very close to her father Atticus. Both characters had older brothers who they looked up to and who were important figures in their lives. Society presented challenges for both of them. Marguerite struggled in life because she was resented for being black and because she was a frail, shy, girl. As girls, both characters were expected to be polite, dainty, religious and pretty. Scout and Marguerite were poor and lacked motherly figures so this was hard to achieve. Scout struggled because her father defended black people, which in her town was not traditional. The white people in Scout's town were typically racist and therefore did not support her father's beliefs. Maya Angelou lived a childhood of which I'm most horrified and envious. If I were to live Angelou's childhood I would be too frightened and shy to ever overcome the obstacles she did. She dealt with kinds of harassment as difficult as rape. I've never gone to the dentist and have been told, "I would rather stick my hand in a dog's mouth." I have not grown up being resented or having limited opportunities because of the color of my skin, like Angelou. My society does not criticize my family's beliefs against racism like Lee's society did, yet the events that occurred during their lives were the ones that shaped who they became, strong, wise, persevering women. Angelou understood herself and her world better by age eighteen than many fifty year old people, black or white. Lee learned to ignore other people's thoughts and listen to herself despite everyone else's racist beliefs. I believe that I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings would have had more meaning to me if had experienced rape or any of the other dramatic, life altering events that happened to Angelou. By reading her book and being able to compare it to an unusual white girl's childhood, I felt like I had experienced these events and concepts in depth. I experienced them in a way that didn't harm me, but stregthened my knowledge of those topics.
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am 31. Mai 2000
Maya Angelou can write, there is no question about that. Her descriptions in this book are so vivid and expressive that I feel, in a small way, I know what it might have been like to live in Arkansas during the 1940s.
I found in the reviews that there seemed to be 2 reasons that people didn't like this book:
1) kids forced to read it for school - I'm not surprised. If I was 14, I probably would have hated it too. Kids want books with action and a story.
2) suggestions that Maya Angelou is a racist - this book is told through the eyes of a young black girl who rarely met a white person and those she met treated her in ways that stripped her of her dignity and her personhood. Any negative feelings she had are entirely understandable.
Maya writes with honesty and such feeling that at times it is almost painful to read but I'm glad I did. I'll never know what it feels like to be black and the target of bigotry but Maya has helped me understand just a little by letting me walk a while in her shoes.
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am 29. April 2000
Maya Angelou is quite an author. Her writing style is so interesting and compelling. I read this book straight through - I simply could not put it down. After I finished this book, I read her other four biographical works, all very interesting, but I think "caged bird" was by far the best of the group.
It is a book that gives you a deep abiding sense of compassion for the gross inequities of Jim Crow laws and it gave me a keyhole peak of what it meant to be black and poor.
Maya's description of listening to the radio and cheering when Joe Louis won the heavyweight championship will always stay with me. She spoke about how it felt to see a black man triumph in the ring and that it was a victory for every black man, woman and child, as well. My words are so inadequate to express the depth of emotion and sense of joy which she conveyed so beautifully in her book.
Read the book. You'll love it and be left with a treasure trove of memories and a deeper sense of compassion for all mankind.
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am 28. September 1999
I was surprised after reading this book at how much i enjoyed it. This autobiography on Maya's life really opened up emotions and memories of growing up. The way she described things in her book, were absolutely amazing. I really felt a closeness with Maya and an understanding with her after reading this book. I think it showed me how even people with very different backgrounds have so many things in common, that we all can relate to something that happened to her in her childhood. I think that anyone who did not like this book, is probably someone who is really young in common sense. Even though i am still only a college student, i think i can appreciate the way that Maya can look back at her past question why things happened, and also what should be learned from it. Anyone who is young at common sense would not understand the book because they do not know what it means to grow as a person after realizing how our past has made us who we are.
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am 8. Juli 1999
This is a very beautiful book with lots of hidden meanings in it. I loved reading it because it was like you were living her life, good times and all, and when she cried, you cried, when she laughed, you laughed with her. it's a book that i think everyone could relate to in some way or another. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading and can relate to a great writer. I loved the ending. it seems that everyone remembers the ending, so it leaves you with a great quoter, "you don't have to think about doing the right thing. if you're for the right thing, then you'll do it without thinking." though it was meant a differnt way in the book, anyone can change it to suit them and relate to it. you'll find that it's right in every aspect.
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am 27. Oktober 1999
Ok to all those people who said this book was just crap think again this is a marvelous book for people who like to read and she is not talking about racisim she is talking about her childhood and how it influenced her to write books and poems she has out now She (Marguerite aka Maya)is a beautiful and courageous woman She was molested or (raped) by her father and she didnt say a thing for two years cause she thought that she had something to do with the death of her father but she is not racist Maya Angelou is my role model and she is a great one at that so people read the book over and get more deep in to it The reason you said it was boring was because you probably wasnt reading it Please give her credit though
--Much Love--
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