Back Story

Why The Caged Bird Sings

caged birdMy copy of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is old and yellowed. It’s the one with the minimalist graphic cover: pink rings emanating out as if a peddle had been dropped on the white page and its reverberations are marked in shades of fuchsia. Inside suggests I bought it some time after 1980, but I don’t recall.

What I do recall is that I loved it and have always thought of it as the first really “grown up” book I ever read. Not just a classic: grown up.

This is interesting since it was all I recalled.

When my son read Caged Bird in high school, we talked about this fact — that it was the first “grown up” book I had ever read. I neglected to mention I didn’t actually remember anything about it. We agreed it was wonderful.

I don’t know what prompted me to pick it off of the shelves this week. But I found myself drawn to it, wondering, I guess, what had moved me so. I had just re-read The Phantom Tollbooth; I suppose I was in the mood to revisit.

And I was reminded why I must have loved it then, whenever that was.  I was happy, relieved to know that I love it still, perhaps for new and different reasons. Near the end, as she so deftly does, Angelou gave the moment voice:

Without willing it, I had gone from being ignorant of being ignorant to being aware of being aware. And the worst part of my awareness what that I didn’t know what I was aware of.

Ain’t that the truth.


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