This review is provided by the California Parent Alliance (CPA) and may contain mature content.
Title: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Author: Maya Angelou
Year Published: 1969
CVUSD Status: Approved – CVUSD Core Literature List
CVUSD Grade: 9th Grade
Listed on CDE (Y/N): Yes
Adult Content warning historically on CDE? (Y/N): Yes
CPA CONTENT WARNINGS: S, V, SV, GSV
Reasons: For sexual violence (fairly graphic), sexual description and mature sexual topics
- Chapter 12 – rape of 8 year old girl by middle-aged man, mom’s boyfriend
(graphic – “His pants were open and his “thing” was standing out of his britches by itself.” Describes him squeezing her tight with his legs so she had trouble taking her undies down as commanded, then the searing pain. It’s scary, but also childish in the description – graphic, but childishly so, since it’s from the 8 year old’s perspective.)
- Chapter 21 – children 11 years old playing at having sex, then a 14 year old girl actually knows how and helps the 11 year old Baily do it for real (the little kids lift up dresses and wiggle on each other playing “mommy and daddy”; the 14 year old actually takes her undies off and says “how else are we gonna do it?” Description stops there.)
- Chapter 35 – Ritie struggles with her sexual identity, talks about reading a book about lesbianism and what she would consider pornography. Eventually, at end of book, she goes to find a boy – any boy – to have sex with her, to prove to herself she is “normal”. She gets pregnant. The message is positive in the end – she loves that baby, doesn’t care about the father – he was a means to an end – it’s an uplifting, encouraging ending. (not graphic – “But there was no romance in the knee which forced my legs, nor in the rub of hairy skin on my chest. Unredeemed by shared tenderness, the time was spent in laborious gropings, pullings, yankings, and jerkings.”)
VIOLENT CONTENT: (see #1 above)
OTHER REVIEWS AVAILABLE:
Common Sense Media – opposing views, but most indicate concern for young readers due to the adult content of book.
Plugged In Online – not available.