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Themes

Go check out the list of literary "Shout-Outs" we found in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Pretty impressive, right? We can't say we're surprised—this is a coming-of-age story of an author and a poet, after all. Maya falls in love with Shakespeare at an age where many people haven't even learned to read. And from that moment, books never leave her side. Reality is just a little too real, and our girl uses literature to escape. As she grows older and begins to morph into author Maya, literature becomes a tool to understand the world and create her own identity.

Questions About Literature and Writing

  1. Go look at the "Shout-Outs" again. Do the books that Maya reads change over time? How? Do they tell us anything about how Maya changes throughout the book?
  2. This text is famously both an autobiography and a work of literature. How can it be something that is "true" (an autobiography) and something that is "false" (fiction) at the same time? Is there a necessary distinction?
  3. Mrs. Flowers says that language is a way to communicate to your fellow man. Literature is written language, so how do books communicate? What does this book say to you?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Maya has a better relationship with authors and literary characters than with the people in her own life.

Without Mrs. Flowers, Maya never would have become a poet.

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