Banned BooksWeek Spotlight: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

What I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou


Removed as required reading in Annapolis, Md. freshman English curriculum (2006) because the book’s rape scenes and other mature content are too advanced for ninth graders. The freshman English class syllabus is sent home to parents to read at the beginning of each year. It warns them of the book’s mature themes and allows parents to ask to have their children read another book instead. Source: ALA May 2006, pp. 132–33.

Thoughts:  The general synposis:

This is the first in a five volume biography series. Written in 1983, it chronicles Maya’s life from age 3 to her early teens. The details of her childhood living with her grandmother in Arkansas, her absentee parents that just flicker in and out of her life, and her incredible bond with her brother showcase the value of family, loyalty, strength and the basic human instinct of survival.
The book is challenged because of the rape scene. I remember when I was younger, one of my teachers showing us this movie in class, and fast forwarding through the rape scene in the movie. Although it is a graphic and heartbreaking part of the story, it is there as proof of Maya Angelou’s accomplishments and ability to oversome some of the worst obstacles in life. It is a shame to ban this from so many teenagers that could benefit from the role model Maya Angelou has become.

You can read my review of this title here.


3 responses to “Banned BooksWeek Spotlight: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

  1. I really enjoyed this book when I read it in ninth grade for the reason you mentioned! I was so impressed with Angelou’s ability to overcome and live a fulfilling life!

  2. I think 9th graders are ready for this book. I remember loving it when I first read it, probably around 9th grade.

    But, I’m not sure I’d show the movie. If it has a scene you have to fast forward, then you should probably skip the movie altogether. I’m generally against using class time for showing movies anyway.

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