This month's LWLShelf x Literally.PDX book club pick hearkens back to many of our school days, to AP English, Literature classes, to book reports and required reading. In high school, Maya Angelou's 1969 autobiography was not assigned to any of my classes, though Toni Morrison's Beloved was. Thinking back, we did not read much Black literature in high school, focusing on Americana, or white Americana, though Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns, or The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne. Sure, we read the classics: Beowolf and Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe, but our focus on Black literature was confined to one or two lonely semesters as far as I can remember.
So! This month I'm thankful I didn't read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as a teenager, because now I get to discover it with a bit more understanding of how the world works, and without the deadline of a book report or test looming.
From Penguin Random House: 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.
I hope you'll read along with us this month as we learn more about one of the most prolific writers in American history, Maya Angelou.