This is a post in my 50 Nifty series, in which I’m reading through 50 books that embody each of the 50 United States. Find out why I’m doing this and which books I’m reading when (so you can read along) by checking out my first 50Nifty post, or else browse all 50Nifty posts by clicking here!
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
Y’all. It’s been a long day for me. That said, I’m going to offer nothing more than a perfunctory post that will not do Maya Angelou’s beautiful book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings the justice it deserves.*
The first of seven autobiographies, IKWtCBS recounts many of the alternately heartwarming and heartbreaking elements of Angelou’s childhood. At a young age, she and her older brother were sent to live with their paternal grandmother in rural Arkansas and through their various exploits learned about the world’s beauty and (sadly more often) its flaws. The writing is beautiful, as you might expect from Angelou. She does a wonderful job of filling in the details of her past, creating a robust narrative that draws the reader in. And although this next comment is not exactly what I want to say, it’s the only way I can think of to describe it right now, and I’m out of energy to search for the exact thing I do mean: Angelou has a way of somehow simplifying the events she describes – making them seem almost matter-of-fact – that I found refreshing, even when she was recounting a sad or disturbing memory. Maybe unpretentious is the word I’m looking for…the sense that you’re getting coffee with Angelou and she’s telling you about her life, friend to friend.
Finally, the obligatory comment about whether or not I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings fits as Arkansas’s book on the 50 Nifty list: in part because of the vivid descriptions of the land and the time, it’s a great pick. Like other books on the list, it doesn’t only take place in the chosen state, but the reader gets such a feel for Stamps through Angelou’s words, it’s a deserving choice for Arkansas. If you’ve never read it, I’d recommend it.
*This comment does not mean I presume to have done adequate justice to the books about which I wrote more.