Thursday, 22 September 2016

‘The humourless puzzle of inequality and hate’

When I think about how much I used to read in comparison to how little I read nowadays, I feel only shame. Even as I try to do better – that is reading two and a half books in two years – the shame only grows. Anyway, a start is a start and my latest read is Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. The highly acclaimed, part one of seven autobiography is obviously a wonderfully written autobiography but I have to admit I didn’t necessarily get any page-turner feels. BUT I think that was more down to my lack of interest in reading as opposed to the book itself.

Spotted towards the end, this quote really stood out to me because of its relevance today. The topic of race is dominant throughout reflecting Angelou’s own life. Having lived in 1930s, 1940s southern America, race dictated every single aspect of Angelou’s life. Sadly, to some extent this remains the case today for some. We’re all too familiar with the unlawful killings of young black men around the world and while it’s not in any way new, increased exposure reminds us of how much we are yet to achieve. Without negating all the great efforts that have been made over almost a hundred years, I can’t help but feel that the “puzzle” is far from being solved. I will never be able to comprehend why people are still offended by race.

Whilst Angelou deals with some serious topics, she still manages to make the book read like a conversation, a chat with a friend. She had a pretty turbulent youth and it only really struck me afterwards because her writing is so effortless. That’s not to say that she didn’t write of her tragic experiences incredibly or that I wasn’t shocked by them. Now that I think of it, this is partly why I was not necessarily hooked, but what better way to write an autobiography? Ultimately, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is not a dramatic story or a tell-all scoop, it’s a candid coming of age story of a girl whose so attuned to the world around her and despite its cruelty refuses to allow it to dampen her strength. In just two hundred eighty-one pages, Maya Angelou reveals herself as one of the most resilient and determined individuals I have never met. As much as I forced myself to read this book at times, as I came to the end, I remembered why I used to love reading. Angelou has an unparalleled ability to put a handful of words together and say a million more, including the seven words this post is entitled.
© Yusun Hannah
Maira Gall