8 Idolized Things about Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

Nikki’s Rating: 8 out of 10

Summary: Beloved poet and author Maya Angelou takes us back to her childhood. Raised by her religious grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya endures abandonment, racism, and rape. But most importantly, this memoir is about how she overcame these and found hope, love, and herself through so many trials and tribulations.

8 Idolized Things about Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Writing

First and foremost, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is written beautifully, as is all Maya Angelou’s work. While I prefer her poetry, Angelou is a phenomenal author and writes eloquently with great description and a knack for using words effectively to capture emotions.

2. Pacing

Memoirs and/or biographies can be very dry and unengaging, just a statement of facts and dates without any real purpose or emotional connections. Thankfully, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings does not have this problem. Pacing throughout this memoir was good and each story was filled with emotional engagement that will draw readers in.

3. Racism

Obviously a great amount of Maya Angelou’s upbringing was overshadowed by racism being an African American woman. Angelou describes the experiences she had with racism and readers are able to feel the wrongness of such attitudes even when they were not meant to be malicious. Such as Angelou not being able to get emergency dental work done simply because she was “colored” or her boss calling Angelou by the wrong name simply because she didn’t want to take the time to say her real name. Racism is not about hurting others because of their color, it is about treating them differently because of their color.

4. Rape

Any woman who comes forward and tells her story of being raped is courageous beyond measure. While incredibly hard to read, Angelou’s experience of rape is shared by countless women and it is vital that she shared it. Obviously this trauma shaped who she was but more importantly, it may help other women to share their story or help them understand they are not alone and their feelings of shame, confusion, self-hatred, anger, despair, and/or fear are valid.

5. Humanity

While humanity is not exclusively all bad, the human race has done and continues to do some terrible shit. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Angelou paints the picture of both the good and bad aspects of humanity that she has seen in her life but one line that really resonated with me was:

“As a species, we were an abomination. All of Us.”

181

6. Reading

Being an avid reader and loving to devour books, it is so meaningful when an author shares this enjoyment as well. And Angelou describes the magic and enchantment of reading so well:

“To be allowed, no, invited, into the private lives of strangers, and to share their joys and fears, was a chance to exchange the Southern bitter wormwood for a cup of mead with Beowulf or a hot cup of tea and milk with Oliver Twist.”

100

7. Kindness

The balance to all the bigotry, hate, and trauma Angelou endured is the kindness she experienced from others. None more so than Mrs. Bertha Flowers who threw Angelou “a life line” and was able to draw Angelou out to talking again by giving Angelou special attention, inviting her inside her home, telling her about the power of words, and lending Angelou books to read aloud. This story was a perfect example of how a simple kindness can have a tremendous effect on others and ultimately the world. Like throwing a stone in a pond, one never knows how far out their ripple of kindness will flow.

8. Overcoming

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings does not progress too far into Angelou’s life but where it ends off is shortly after becoming the first African American employed on the San Francisco streetcars and this is no small achievement. In regards to overcoming so many obstacles and becoming a woman to be reckoned with, Angelou explains:

“The Black female is assaulted in her tender years by all those common forces of nature at the same time that she is caught in the tripartite crossfire of masculine prejudice, white illogical hate and Black lack of power. The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.”

272

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7 Horrors of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House”

The Haunting of Hill House

by Shirley Jackson

Nikki’s Rating: 7 out of 10

Summary: Four strangers come together to spend a summer at Hill House. Hoping to observe paranormal occurrences, they may have gotten more than they bargained for. Rooms covered in blood, personal messages written on the walls, the house appears to have a mind of its own.

7 Horrors of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Quick Read

All in all, The Haunting of Hill House is a quick read and I’m extremely grateful for this as I do not think my anxiety could deal with a full-length horror novel.

2. Horror

The Haunting of Hill House is an effective horror story and is really quite disturbing to read; makes the reader think and question if they have ever experienced a house that might have been sentient.

3. Description

Nothing can drag a story and bore the reader than too much description. However, Jackson uses description effectively. While description could be heavy throughout The Haunting of Hill House it did not appear to be drawn out past what was necessary for the reader to know and understand the scene.

4. Characters

There are a few rather vile and hated characters in The Haunting of Hill House and Jackson writes them well! Character development is no easy feat in a short story as there is less interaction with the characters overall but Jackson does an amazing job with her unfavorable characters. Just thinking about Dudley makes me cringe.

5. Build Up

One of the reasons The Haunting of Hill House is an effective horror story is because Jackson is a masterful writer in that she builds the intensity. At first Hill House is strange, then there is some unease that eventually grows into feeling like there is an actual sinister presence which leads to all out fear.

6. Eleanor Vance

Another extremely effective piece of The Haunting of Hill House is that readers are left questioning whether Eleanor’s demise was because of an evil presence that is Hill House or her own psychological break.

7. The Beginning is the End

The book begins and ends in exactly the same way and it is quite unsettling:

“Hill House itself, not sane, stood against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, its walls continued upright, bricks met nearly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

(p. 3 & 235)

What were your favorite things about The Haunting of Hill House?


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

8 Worthwhile Things about Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”

Wuthering Heights

By Emily Brontë

Nikki’s Rating: 8 out of 10

Summary: Growing up together, Heathcliff and Catherine fall deeply in love, believing that one could not survive without the other. But Heathcliff has no title, no land, no occupation and Catherine must be provided for. After losing Catherine forever, Heathcliff torments the next generation as he is haunted by Catherine and what could have been.

8 Worthwhile Things about Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Romanticism

“Wuthering Heights” like “Jane Eyre” is a prime example of Romanticism. With its Gothic themes of ghosts and elements of the Byronic hero seen in Heathcliff, “Wuthering Heights” is truly inspired by the Romantic era.

2. Perspective

The perspective of “Wuthering Heights” is not told through one of the main characters of the story but rather an outsider who is not an intimate of the family and who seems to be unreliable as well. This leaves the reader in an interesting predicament of being further removed from the actual main characters and knowing that we are not seeing the whole story.

3. Speech

Emily Brontë kept her characters authentic by writing phonetically for those of the lower class who had a very different pattern of speech.

4. Love Story

While Heathcliff’s obsession is a bit stalkerish/creepy and Catherine is truly a spoiled brat, their love is still romantic on many levels. One cannot help but wish that they had ended up together and feel how tragic it is that they didn’t.

5. Heathcliff

Healthcliff is a dynamic character. While he appears to be quite a brute with questionable morals, there is an element of softness about him. A tortured soul who only wants to be with his true love. A Bryonic hero indeed!

6. Parallels

There are many parallels in “Wuthering Heights” between the first and second generations. One such parallel is that between Heathcliff and Hareton. Being the son of his bitter enemy, Heathcliff treats Hareton accordingly. Heathcliff actually raises Hareton similar to how he was raised, treating Hareton like a servant and denying him an education. And yet we see this goodness in Heathcliff through him saving Hareton’s life as a baby and treating him better than Hareton’s real father ever does.

7. Hareton and catherine

The love that eventually develops between Catherine and Hareton is quite beautiful and provides an ending to “Wuthering Heights” that is positive and hopeful especially after the heartbreak of Heathcliff and Catherine.

8. Beautifully Written

Written eloquently with beautiful descriptives, interesting characters, and a tragic, heartbreaking love-story, “Wuthering Heights” is an enchanting novel that will remain a timeless classic for years to come.

What are your favorite things about “Wuthering Heights”?


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.