BookTalk Sisters

Gathering together around books

Maya Angelou Resources

Maya Angelou: The Official Site

The Boston Globe: A Timeline of Maya Angelou's Life 

The New York Times: Maya Angelou, Lyrical Witness to the Jim Crow South, Dies at 86

Academy of American Poets

The Wall Street Journal: The Inner Rooms of Maya Angelou

AUDIO: NPR -At 80, Maya Angelou Reflects on a 'Glorious' Life


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Censorship

Frequently challenged books of the 21st century: A list managed by the Americal Library Association

The lists report the books that have been censored by libraries or schools.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings appeared on this annual list at least four times between 2001 and 2011. For what age group would you ban I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? Has your local library or school district banned Maya Angelou books?


How Scandalous is Your Reading History?
A visual quiz that may surprise you by revealing the banned books you have read either in school or on your own. Posted by Buzzfeed



Some Discussion Questions to Get Us Started

School's out for summer! These questions re to help us to get started on our discussion, but they are not homework.


1. When did you first read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? How old were you?  Describe your first impressions. 

2.  While reading the book,  do you relate to Marguerite as a child or as an adult?

3. For you, where does the book's power come from--its honesty? Its images?  Its language? 

4. How does the book reflect on children as victims? How does it reveal children as powerful agents of change?

5. What is your favorite passage in the book?
6. Is your family background rural or urban/cosmopolitan? Are you familiar with living in either of the types of cultural environments that Maya Angelou describes in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings—locales like rural Stamps, Arkansas or cosmopolitan San Francisco, California?
  Does Angelou’s description of the cultural life of these locales ring true to your experience?
7. Maya Angelou’s descriptions of the rural American South and the urban west coast city during the early to mid-20th century are vivid. How do her descriptions compare to historical accounts that you may have read that describing the south or west coast during the period she describes?
8. What history books, documentaries or movies depict narratives of living in the south and west coast that are similar to Angelou’s or that contrast Angelou’s descriptions?
9.  The title of Maya Angelou’s memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is a line taken from the poem, “Sympathy,” by poet and novelist Paul Laurence Dunbar. What does the line mean in Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem, “Sympathy”?
What could the title mean in relation to Maya Angelou’s life story, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?
10. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has been banned in public schools and libraries. For what age group would you ban I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? Has your local library or school district banned Maya Angelou books?