52 in 52 Week 39: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

"Without willing it, I had gone from being ignorant of being ignorant to being aware of being aware. And the worse part of my awareness was that I didn't know what I was aware of. I knew I knew very little, but I was certain that the things I had yet to learn wouldn't be taught to me at Washington High School." 

I think I started to read this when it was given to me as a gift in the late 90's.  Maybe not this particular Maya Angelou book because that one had some pretty gritty language that I didn't appreciate. While this one has a bit, it is mostly her childhood reflections from her earliest memory of being in Long Beach, CA and being sent as a toddler with her brother (without an adult) to Stamps, Arkansas to live with her grandmother. 

I didn't like it at first. I thought it would be another poorly narrated book by an author (I didn't care for Alice Walker's narration of The Color Purple), but I grew accustomed to her slow, southern narration and was drawn into her life. She is a year younger than my dear, departed mother, but she grew up with more means than my mother (her grandmother was savvy and ran a successful store for the black community) and less values. 

She also grew up with more prejudice and a sense of mystery about her father and mother and why they sent her away. She does eventually spend time with both her father and mother in California and has some interesting adventures that leads to the quote above. I don't think I want to read the sequel. Her musing on situational ethics being OK for the black man because of his disadvantaged state bothered me. Her poor life choice at the end of the book really bothered me too.

She definitely led a different life from my mother's. My mother was a person of great integrity and values. I don't see Maya Angelou as being any sort of role model for young black women. 

I get the impression that the seedier side of her life will emerge in her next memoir. Maybe that is the one that was given to me in the late 90's that I did not care for. 

Since she is also a poet it comes through in her brilliant writing. 

Again, it is education and caring educator that open up her world. I loved her mentioning some of my favorite books like Jane Eyre too.
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