The Birds

Review From User :

Maya Angelou was a poet and Nobel laureate who once gave an address at President Clinton's inauguration. Before she won her multitudes of awards and honors, Maya was raised in rural Stamps, Arkansas by her grandmother and uncle during the depression. First published in 1969 and now considered a modern classic, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings details Angelou's tumultuous childhood in poignant detail.

Born Marguerite Johnson and often called Ritie, Maya and her older brother Bailey were taken to live with their grandmother at young ages following their parents' divorce. Even though the south was still in the throes of Jim Crow and Stamps was at the forefront of segregation, young Maya appeared to enjoy a loving childhood. Raised by a strict, church going grandmother and uncle, Maya and Bailey turned to both books and each other for comfort. Devouring books like candy, both children quickly advanced through the Stamps educational system, two grades ahead of schedule.

When Maya was eight and Bailey nine, their father came to Arkansas and brought them to live with their mother in St Louis. Coming from a multi racial family, members of Maya's maternal family were light skinned enough to pass for white and some integrated into the German community. It was in St Louis, a city that should have afforded Maya more opportunities than rural Stamps, that she experienced the low point in her childhood. Physically abused by her mother's fiancé, Maya recovered and returned to Stamps and a loving environment. She and Bailey continued to live with their grandmother until they had advanced beyond what the education system offered them in the segregated south. With no future other than a house servant or cotton picker, the two were returned to their mother, now living in desegregated California.

While in California, Maya experienced highs and lows as well as Jim Crow rearing its ugly head, the low point of which was living in a car in a junk yard for a month. These experiences, including being reunited with both parents and establishing relationships with them, made for events that Maya could reflect on later on in life in this volume. I find it extraordinary that Maya could overcome being abused as a young child and still manage to graduate school two years ahead of schedule at a high academic level. This is a testament to her grandmother as well as her personal fabric. This fabric lead her to be the first colored streetcar operator in San Francisco and later on the poet laureate that people recognize to this day.

Maya Angelou noted her writing influences as Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, as well as Booker T Washington who encouraged a generation of African Americans to achieve employment through a stellar education. In her dedication, Angelou also cites her parents as being positive influences in her life after they reconciled. A gifted author and poet who was advanced well beyond her years as a child, Maya graced us with her powerful prose in all of her works of literature. A poignant look into a childhood in the Jim Crow, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings reveals the upbringing of a remarkable American woman. A courageous glimpse into Angelou's life, this first memoir of hers easily merits 5 bright stars.


Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic tale of horror. The idea for this famous story came to du Maurier one day when she was walking across to Menabilly Barton farm from the house. She saw a farmer busily ploughing a field whilst above him the seagulls were diving and wheeling. She developed an idea about the birds becoming hostile and attacking him.

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