Smith, Sidonie Ann. "The Song of a Caged Bird: Maya Angelou's Quest after Self-Acceptance." Southern Humanities Review (Fall 1973), 365-375.
Smith analyzes Maya Angelou's biography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and sees it as an example of black life in America, comparing the work to the autobiography of Richard Wright and the works of other black writers. She finds that Angelou in this book expresses a good deal of self-consciousness because of her looks as a child, and another element she sees in the reflections of the young girl is a sense of personal displacement counterpointed with the feeling of displacement within the larger black community itself. The black community of the book is that of Stamps, Arkansas.
Smith highlights certain stories from the book and certain moments in the life of Angelou, especially those stories that reflect on the subject of displacement--the fact that Angelou and her brother were sent away from home because their parents were divorcing, the other journeys the child undertakes, a trip she takes with her father to Mexico, and through it all the fact that the child was learning about herself. This particular black child sees the world as a series of barriers to be broken through in order to prove herself as a human being, as a woman, as a black woman, and so on. What the girl has to escape in particular is her own self-image, and Smith finds that by the end of the book the author has shown how she has freed herself from the natural and social bars imprisoning her in the cage of her own self-image. This escape comes with the birth of her child.
Vermillion, Mary. "Reembodying the Self: Representations of Rape in 'Incidents in the Life of a Slave girl' and 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," Biography, 15, 3 (Summer 1992), 243-260.
Vermillion analyzes the images of rape in two works by Angelou, including her report of her own rape as a child in her autobiography. Angelou uses rape as...