Maya Angelou’s tumultuous childhood in the South and the struggles that come with being black are the basis for her autobiographies such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Through her rich, insightful literature she is able to record the black experience and ultimately the black struggle. She “[is] always talking about the human condition – about what we can endure, dream fail at and still survive.”(Matzu 23) Angelou’s early life was full of hardships; making her strong and ready to fight for her rights. As a young child she, along with her brother Bailey and their parents, moved from her birth place St. Louis to Long Beach. After her parents struggles there, she and Bailey were shipped off to Stamps, Arkansas; the starting point for Caged Bird (Phelps 4). When she was very young she became trapped within herself and would not speak. Not speaking opened up her ears, and she learned how to listen, a valuable tool as a writer. As a child she had fallen in love with the spoken word, another talent that Angelou is known for (Shuker 25-28). She does not give men much credit for how she developed because they were either absent from her life, weak, subservient, abusive, lazy or self-indulgent (Bloom 9). She became good friends with notable writers such as James Baldwin and Jules Feiffer who urged her to write an autobiography. After falling in love with this writing style, she went on to create four more autobiographies centering on her involvement with the civil rights movement, including encounters with Malcolm X and Dr. King, and the feminist movement both in the United States and South Africa (Matzu 23). Maya Angelou’s styles range from the spoken word to theatre to, what she is most noted for- literature. She has written poetry, written directed and acted in plays and films, performed as a singer and dancer and has even composed musical scores. She was the first black woman director in Hollywood (Maya). She is praised for her prose style, satire and universal...
Cited: Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House, 1970. “Biography Information.” Maya Angelou. 2006. Lordly and Dame Inc. 21 March. 2008 http:// mayaangelou.com Bloom, Lynn Z. “Maya Angelou.” Dictionary of Literary Biography. 38. Ann Arbor: Edwards Brothers, 1985. 3-12. Kelly, Ernice B. Harvard Educational Review. 1970: Excerpted and reprinted in Contemporary Matzu, Roger, ed. “Maya Angelou.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. 64. Detroit: Gale Research, 23-24. “Maya Angelou.”Poets.org. 2008. The Academy of American Poets. 21 March. 2008 http://poets.org Neubauer, Carol E. “Maya Angelou and Carol E. Neubauer, in an interview.” The Massachusetts Ed. Roger Matzu. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. 38-40. Phelps, Shirelle, ed. “Maya Angelou.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. 15. Detroit: Gale Research, 1997. 4-8. Shuker, Nancy. Maya Angelou. Englewood Cliffs: Silver Burdett Press, 1990. Smith, Sidonie. “The Song of a Caged Bird: Maya Angelou’s Quest After Self-Acceptance.” The
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