Object 3: “I know why the caged bird sings” by Maya Angelou

May 27, 2021


Maya Angelou’s book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which I read in my English Literature class, is an autobiographical coming-of-age story of a young black girl overcoming racism and trauma.

One of the main themes is racism against black communities, therefore it follows that the black girls in my class had a different experience reading it as I did. The object enriches the exhibition because it could be seen how each student interpreted the book differently, and despite there being a shared knowledge of racist attacks, each individual could understand these situations to different extents. While I can empathise with the black community and understand Maya when she is the victim of racism or witnesses lynchings, but I cannot fully understood her feelings that came with this treatment merely from reading the book. On the other hand, the black girls in my class could debate with absolute clarity of these events, taking into consideration the true feelings of the characters in the book as if they were the ones who had been in it, as some of them may have had their families experiencing it.

Some may claim that having knowledge which is generated within the individual from reading textbooks is important just as much as the knowledge of the community, however, it is not enough to know dates and names but also to be able to understand the feelings that complement these occasions. The book can provide textual knowledge but never experiential knowledge.

The question is where the line lies between knowledge and understanding, and to what extent outsiders who do not belong to particular communities can know the experiences that an insider would have. I believe that this is important as people will sometimes believe they have the knowledge of things that only particular communities have undergone when this is not the case. Knowledge only truly belongs the communities that are involved and therefore we can only call ourselves truly knowledgeable about certain topics when we have had a part in those experiences.


Reference list
Poesie D’Autore, Romanità di Trilussa. N.D. https://www.poesiedautore.it/trilussa/romanita Poesie D’Autore, Romanità di Trilussa. N.D. (Google translator feature) https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=it&u=https://www.poesiedautore.it/trilussa/r omanita&prev=search&pto=aue

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