The Book Club: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

This month's book was truly enlightening. A story of struggle, perseverance, self-doubt, and rebirth. Maya Angelou's memoir "I know Why The Caged Bird Sings" was hidden gem that I found in my mother's library (I have found so many good books there, I should really call it Bev's Bibliotheque). 

Check out previous books featured in The Book Club.

Maya Angelou is one of my favourite poets. She has a way of stringing together a sequence of heavy events with pointed honesty. Her words, not in the slightest sugar coated, elicit deeper understanding as the reader follows along her revue. Her reflections about self-hood and life make the reader think and question their own experiences. 

Maya talks about a lot of situations in her life from the perspective of a Southern Black girl growing up in a racist-sexist-progressing society. Her experiences alone; anyone from any walk of life can relate to. Navigating through the evolving world of society as a young black woman, finding herself after enduring a traumatic experience of rape during childhood, finding love and acceptance in a broken family, and eventually maturing into an independent adult. It is a terrific coming of age story from one woman I truly respect. I only wish I had read it sooner.

I'm going to spend the next few moment breaking down the essence of the book as to not give away the details of its contents as I recommend picking up a copy of this book to read for yourself.

Before even picking up the book, I had many thoughts about the title. A title is chosen for a reason. At the end of the book, I was still left puzzled? What did Maya find out? Why does the bird sing in its cage? On my quest to unlock the secrets captured by the book's title, I came across the story of an individual imprisoned for over 7 years, during which time they learned to write poetry. The writer detailed that although in prison, stripped of their rights and freedoms, through their poetry they felt the most liberated. 

Those who are already free busy themselves with the frills of life, they take that which is readily available to them for granted. It is only when those things are taken away, or in other words withheld because of forces beyond their control, they retreat to the only thing that they can do. Sing.

I can somewhat attribute singing, as crying. We cry when a situation is so powerful and overwhelming that our bodies, finding no other way to control outside forces, causes water to fall from our eyes. Our tears become the only thing we can control. From this release, we often find refuge and perspective. Being brought to our lowest points, we see an impossible situation with clear eyes.  

The cage birds sings because for the first time, it is aware of that which it cannot touch. It longs for it. Not being able to quench that desire to spread its wings and soar, it turns to music as its melodic escape. I have always been a believer that music transcends. Its one of a handful of things whose meaning can be understood regardless of position, education and language. 

For Maya, she is regarded as this bird. Her cage being the confines of a reality under the weight of racism and bring a rape survivor. Maya describes the period immediately following her traumatic rape experience in her memoir, it pushed her into a period of mute. Conversely, although silenced, it became a period in her life when she truly developed her love for the written word. While silenced, she became more enlightened. It was during this time, she crept towards her liberation. When she was ready to speak, with new found purpose, she had plenty to say. 

The caged bird sings for freedom; she longs to be free. As a result, she is liberated; perhaps for the first time.