Maya Angelou retold the experiences of her turbulent childhood in her first autobiography “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” (1969) which illustrates how strength of character and a love for literature can help overcome racism and trauma.
This book was the first non-fiction bestseller by an African-American woman and she was also nominated for the National Book Award.
The title comes from the third stanza of a poem by African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, titled “Simpathy”.
“I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings.”
(“So perché l’uccello in gabbia canta, ah io,
Quando la sua ala è ammaccata e il suo petto dolente,
Quando batte le sbarre e vorrebbe essere libero;
Non è un canto di gioia o esultanza,
Ma una preghiera che manda dal profondo del cuore,
Ma un appello, che lancia verso il cielo
So perché l’uccello in gabbia canta.”)
The caged bird, a symbol for the chained slave, is an image she would use throughout all her writings.
In her first autobiography Maya Angelou was able to provide a positive message of hope, despite the injustices of her life as a child.
She said that “the honorary duty of a human being is to love.”
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
From: Touched By An Angel
e nel suo corteo arrivano estasi
vecchie memorie di piacere,
antiche storie di dolore.
E, se siamo audaci,
l’amore strappa via le catene della paura
dalla nostra anima. “)
To be continued…