88 pages 2 hours read

Maya Angelou

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 1969

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Teacher Introduction

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

  • Genre: Nonfiction; memoir
  • Originally Published: 1969
  • Reading Level/Interest: Lexile 1010L; Grade range: 9-12
  • Protagonist/Central Conflict: In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou recounts her early years, from childhood to her teenage years. The central conflict revolves around Angelou’s experiences as a young Black girl growing up in the racially segregated South and her struggle to find her voice and identity amidst racism, trauma, and adversity. It explores racism, resilience, personal growth, and the power of literature and self-expression.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Racism; sexual assault; trauma; discrimination

Maya Angelou, Author

  • Bio: Maya Angelou was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the first volume of her seven-volume autobiography, and it became a critically acclaimed work that resonated with readers worldwide. Angelou’s writing is characterized by her powerful and evocative storytelling, capturing the essence of her experiences and the strength of the human spirit.
  • Other Works: Gather Together in My Name (1974); Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976); The Heart of a Woman (1981)
  • Awards: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work–Biography/Autobiography (1971); National Book Award nomination (1970)

CENTRAL THEMES connected and noted throughout this Teaching Guide:

  • Race and Racism
  • Literacy and the Power of Words
  • Identity and a Sense of Belonging