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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

“Among my associates, there were no takers.”- Maya Angelou on finding a boyfriend.

I loved this book. It was like poetry. Maybe I loved it more because I found a recording of Maya Angelou, herself reading it. I loved especially her descriptions of her brother, Bailey. There were sections, such as this section, that I thought should be read in middle school classrooms. Then there were other sections that I wasn’t so sure about but I guess it would be okay because I read The House on Mango Street in the eighth grade without any issue as to the content. Well, that’s not entirely true. I read the rape scene out loud to the entire class without knowing the girl had been raped. Sure, I knew something bad had happened. I knew they hurt her and I knew they touched her in inappropriate ways but I read it to the class like I was reading a new list of vocabulary words. I didn’t pause or stop or anything. For some reason, it weirded the teacher out. She asked me to stay after class. When she asked me if I understood what I read I said yes. I thought I’d be in trouble or she’d think me stupid if I said otherwise but as she talked to me I realized that more happened to the girl than I’d originally assumed. Anyway, that book comes later in my vicarious journey.


I found that I related well to the young Maya, which was refreshing since I’ve been reading so much YA lit recently for a class and I cannot relate to any of the characters in the books on the syllabus. Gemma from Smack is hopelessly stupid and obnoxious. Devon Davenport from After seems like a character that could not possibly exist although I laud the author’s good intentions. Infanticide, especially by distraught young mothers is a confusing topic that someone needs to shed some light on. Maya was a real character though. I know there’s a bit of an advantage here in that she’s also autobiographical but she was so heartbreakingly honest about her faults that it was impossible not to love her and relate to her. She was certainly a thousand times more courageous that I could ever be but I knew all to well her not so altruistic quest to be “good” and her insecurities that she allowed to pollute her notions of good and evil. The writing was vulnerable and that’s what made it real and alluring.

My only complaint would be that it ended so abruptly and that it ended at all.


Next on the list is California with Inherent Vice. I’m not super psyched about this one so who knows when I’ll get around to it with all the other YA and Gothic reading on my list. Also, I’ve committed myself to reading David Copperfield. I do not remember quite why but I shook hands on it on a subway platform in Mexico City. So, it must have been of the utmost importance to the development of my character. With all of that though. I’m beginning to question whether or not I will make it in 4.16 years. Things were looking well in January, but now, as March draws to a close, I’ve only finished with the “A” states. Maybe I won’t go in order. Maybe the next letter will not be “C”. I don’t want to read Inherent Vice right now. I suppose I could jump to “W” then jump back to “C” and end somewhere in the middle. That actually sounds good. I’d be quite content with Reservation Blues. I like Sherman Alexie and I’ve been meaning to get to this one. I just recently read his YA novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I didn’t find it as good as his adult stuff. I don’t know why Flight isn’t considered YA but it was pretty amazing. I liked it better. Reservation Blues has been on my list for awhile. I do feel like going out of order might be cheating so I’ll leave it up to fate, and my library’s pathetic collection. I’ll see which one they have after work today. I have no reason to believe they’ll have both because well, it’s a terrible library but they just might have one.

I’m not really sure Why I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings counted as Arkansas. A great deal of it was not set there. Oh well. Perhaps that’s all Arkansas really has in the way of literature set there. That was a challenge Arkansas.


“Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”- Maya Angelou describing her mother



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I’m way behind. I finished the Arizona book before 2014 and I’m just now getting around to saying something about it. I can tell that the author didn’t do his research on Catholicism or synesthesia, so I can only assume that his research on borders and drug cartels is also sub par. It was violent raunchy and crass. Can I say I was just grossed out? Because a lot of the time I was just grossed out, and not by the gore which there was some but by the middle-aged sex scene in a Marian Shrine. I guess it shouldn’t matter that they were middle-aged because that’s ageism or whatever but it did. I think I expected some reverence or at least some decorum from people of that age.

A lot of necessary Spanish was not translated. Some of it was but if he meant to write this book to be read by people who speak English you’ve got to translate other languages.  If I hadn’t been reading on a Kindle there’s a lot I wouldn’t have been able to look up, as I do not have a Spanish-English dictionary tied to my waist.  I get that the story jumping back and forth was clever due to the border issue. Honestly though, Tolstoy is a great enough writer to do that and hold my interest. I’ve completely lost interest in Caputo’s characters the moment I leave them and I don’t care if I ever come back to them again. The main guy, whose name escapes me (that says something maybe it was Gil) is barely a character at all. I’m supposed to sympathize with him throughout the story but getting to know him is like surviving on plain graham crackers. The guy’s got less personality than Qui Gon Jin did in the prequitrilogy. (Can we start calling it that?) The guy goes fairly quickly from being somewhat sad  to suicidal to going out hunting to having sex with a cowgirl. I just wasn’t following it and frankly I didn’t believe it. I didn’t feel any of his feelings. You could say that I couldn’t understand the loss he’d gone through (from the beginning the reader knows that his wife died in the 9-11 attack) and that seems like a fair thing to say. I can’t imagine the emotions that would ensue after losing someone in a terrorist attack. However, I started reading “The Goldfinch” (even though it’s not  on the list..I needed a break) and Donna Tartt is doing her best to make me understand exactly how it feels. The MC’s feelings of loss in Tartt’s writing are thick and palpable. It’s more than a bit depressing. Caputo makes me understand none of it. The storyline worked well. Things came together in a more or less clever resolution that made sense and even made a statement about the far reaching consequences of sin and revenge, but after reading that shrine sex scene, I’ve completely lost any respect I might have otherwise mustered up for this novel. I simply could not care about the fates of any of the characters.

Next on the list is Arkansas. That is “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou. The library did not have a print copy, which feels like a travesty but I’ve been listening to it instead of reading it because it’s actually read by Miss Angelou herself. Her prose is rich like poetry and I feel like it’s meant to be heard anyway, besides how can you understand a work better than by letting the author read it to you in their own voice and perhaps more importantly, in their own cadence.

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