I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou's unforgettable memoir of growing up black in the 1930s and 1940s. She was born Marguerite, but her brother Bailey nicknamed her Maya ("mine"). As children, Maya and Bailey were sent to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. Their early world revolved around this remarkable woman and the store she ran for the black community. Amidst the joys of her childhood, the awful, unfathomable mystery of prejudice entered her world. Then violence, too, intruded upon Maya's world, when a visit to her mother ended in tragedy--rape. Thereafter, she refused to speak, except to the person closest to her, Bailey.
Eventually, Maya and Bailey moved to California, where the formative phase of her life came to a close with the painful discovery of the true nature of her father, the emergence of a hard-won independence, and--perhaps most importantly--a baby, born out of wedlock, loved, and kept. Superbly told, with the poet's gift for language and observation, this remarkable autobiography captures, indelibly, a world of which most Americans are shamefully ignorant.