Banned Books #8 I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou with Chrissi Reads

Published February 23, 2015 by bibliobeth



What’s it all about?:

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.


Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our second book of 2015 and the eighth book in our series of Banned/Challenged Books. We’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. This is what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2015 – the post will go out on the last Monday of each month so if you’d like to read along with us, you are more than welcome.


Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Chosen by : Chrissi


The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Chosen by : Beth


What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

Chosen by : Chrissi


Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Chosen by : Beth


Detour for Emmy by Marilyn Reynolds

Chosen by : Chrissi


Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Chosen by : Beth


Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Chosen by: Chrissi


Forever by Judy Blume

Chosen by : Beth


The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Chosen by : Chrissi


Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Chosen by: Beth

But back to this month….

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Chosen by: Beth

First published: 1970
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2007 (source)
Chosen by: Beth
Reason: sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: This is one of the “older” novels on the Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century (see source above) but I don’t believe that it was consistently sexually explicit for the time period. There is only one incident where the book was slightly explicit where Mr Freeman rapes Maya. I first read this book as a teenager and do remember feeling a bit shocked when the author describes the incident but I think the way it was written was utterly compelling and it made me want to read on.

CHRISSI: I can see why some people would have problems with using it with younger readers, but I think compared to some literature out there based around the same period it’s not as sexually explicit as some reads are. Yet, I can understand the particular scene which would be quite hard to read if we’re thinking about using this book in a school setting. It’s particularly shocking. The life lessons that are in this book are important, but incredibly heavy going.

How about now?

BETH: Reading this book again as an adult was a real treat and I found that my opinions and emotions around Maya’s rape haven’t changed. As to whether it should be a “challenged” book in today’s world, I really don’t think so. I would have loved to study this while at school as I think it brings up a lot of important issues. My only hesitation would be to aim the book at a slightly higher age level i.e. GCSE.

CHRISSI: Hmm. As I mentioned before, the life lessons are important, but the content itself is quite heavy going and shocking. I don’t think it should be banned, but it should be used with 15 year olds + . I don’t know. Am I underestimating younger readers?

What did you think of this book?

BETH: I loved this book when I first read it and I still love it today. The author writes so beautifully about her childhood and the barriers she had to overcome in the American South, where racial prejudice and segregation was simply a way of life. She comes out of everything she goes through stronger and more determined with a zest for life that is truly inspirational.

CHRISSI: I didn’t like it as much as I had hoped I would. I thought it dealt with some incredibly powerful issues, but for some reason it fell short for me. Perhaps its because non fiction really isn’t my sort of thing. There’s no denying that Maya Angelou is a talented writer though.

Would you recommend it?

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! (to some)

BETH’s star rating (out of 5):


Please join us next month when we will be discussing Crank by Ellen Hopkins which was chosen by Chrissi.


Comments make me go to my happy place...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: