Reflection for “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

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Reflection for “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” Abstract This essay consists of three sections. The first section, a brief synopsis of the book “I know why caged bird sings” is presented. At the second part, three insights after reading the book are introduced. That is, metaphor of caged bird, power of literacy, and power of silence. At the last section, discipline-specific knowledge that relevant to the main character of book is stated. Synopsis of the Text This autobiography is Maya Angelou’s coming of age story, and follows Marguerite’s (called “My’ or “Maya” by her brother) life from the age of three to seventeen.
In this story, Angelou as the storyteller, tells the audience about her experiences as an African American girl living in the Southern United States and her struggles with racism and being raped at eight years old. The book reveals the process of how she overcomes these difficulties and transforms into a self-possessed, dignified young woman, capable of responding to prejudice. Her maturity is mainly gained by her grandmother, Momma, the power of literacy, and the love around her. The book starts with Marguerite at three years old.
At three, she was sent to Stamps, Arkansas, with her older brother Bailey to live with her grandmother and crippled uncle. Momma owns a merchandise store in the Stamps, and her store is a center of the African American community. Church, school, and the store are main places that little Maya and her brother live around. They are acquainted with African American life in Stamps which is hopeful in the morning before they go to cut the cotton, then turns dissatisfied and disappointed in the evening when they return from the cotton field. Read also Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).



Stamps is a place where the black world and white world is clearly distinctive. Segregation makes them feel fear and hatred towards the white people in Stamps. Maya and her brother’s relatively peaceful lives are disturbed by their father’s appearance at Stamps. He takes them to St. Louis, Missouri, to live with their mother. Later, Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. After her mother’s boyfriend’s death, Maya misconceives that her words lead him to his death, and then she refuses to speak.
This make her mother feel helplessness, therefore she decides to send her children to Stamps again. In Stamps, Maya meets Mrs. Bertha Flowers, who supplies her with books to encourage her love of reading and helps her to break through her shell. Later, Momma decides to send her grandchildren to their mother in San Francisco, California, to protect them from the dangers of racism in Stamps. Before Maya graduates, she becomes first African American female streetcar conductor in San Francisco.
During her final year of high school, she worries that she might be a lesbian and initiates sexual intercourse with a teenage boy. Later, she finds out that she is pregnant. Maya gives birth at the end of the book and begins her journey to adulthood by accepting her role as a mother. Insights You Obtained from Reading this Text Metaphor of Caged Bird In this text, the cage is used to imply many things. In young Maya’s eyes, being black is like living in a cage; she always imagines she could escape from her black skin.
In addition, her uncle’s handicapped body is his own cage. African American laborers in the Stamps cotton field are also being caged, because they are repeatedly doing the same labor work day after day, but their life does not seem to change. It is still very tough; they are like the caged bird cannot go anywhere. When the “powhitetrash” girls ridicule Momma, Maya looks through the window and watches the whole process of Momma being ridiculed by these girls. She was angry and wanted to yell at them but she could not, like the caged bird.
From reading this text, I could know the severer victimization from racism and the impacts of segregation on African American person’s life at that time. When Maya firstly comes across the white community in Stamps, she feels fear and perceives the white people there are un-human. Segregation produces misunderstanding between the two groups and escalates the conflict. Power of Literacy Maya is scared about the power of words after the death of Mr. Freeman, and refuses to speak. After she goes back to Stamps, Maya met Mrs. Flower, who encourages her reading of books.
Books become a refuge in her bewildering childhood. Maya finds characters of a book to make sense of her bewildering world. She even uses books as a way of coping with her rape. From the literacy, Maya gets comfort; literacy expands her thought and enables her to think independently without considering the unwritten rules of society at that time. Literacy also enhances Maya’s ability of thinking; it lets her have better understanding of herself, elaborates her thought, and makes her become a stronger person. In addition, literacy inspires her to think what true human dignity is.
It is very lucky for Maya to find a way to coping, as McPherson says, “if there is one stable element in Angelou’s youth it is a dependence upon books. ” (McPherson, 1990, pp. 215). I wonder what the most dignified characteristic of a human being is. The answer I found from this book is not the color of skin, socioeconomic status, or power; it is the self-determined ability to not allows others to decide the value of themselves, because everyone is equally dignified. Power of Silence Maya’s grandmother is a quite successful African American woman in the African American community in Stamps.
However, Momma and Momma’s family frequently suffered from racist attacks. On one occasion, Momma is taunted by “powhithetrash” girls. Maya sees Momma through the window coping with ignorance while being dignified. When these girls go to leave, Momma says to them “Bye, Miz”. After seeing how Momma fights with racism, Maya realizes racism can be fought without impudence, but instead with dignity. On the another occasion, Momma hides Uncle Willies in a vegetable bin to protect him from Ku Klux Klan raiders, because at that time, it was hard for a black man get protection from the police.
Momma chooses very realistic ways to protect her family and shows to little Maya what truth dignity is. Discipline-Specific Knowledge that You Think is Relevant to this Main Character If Maya is a client, what should a practitioner do with Maya? At first, the counselor needs to decide the time that Maya come to see him or her. Maya has come to see the counselor after she has been raped. As described in the book, after this incident, Maya refused to speak and closed herself to the outside world. Therefore, it can be assumed that this period is the first crisis in Maya’s life.
At the beginning of the counseling session, establishing a good relationship is very important. Sexual abuse involves betrayal of the child’s trust. The effect of such behavior makes a child who survives sexual abuse feel that it is difficult for them to trust others. Therefore, the counselor needs to make a tremendous effort to build a good rapport with Maya. We can utilize the things that Maya likes in the beginning of the session. As known from the text, Mrs. Bertha Flowers introduces books to Maya and encourage her love of reading books.
Therefore, we can talk about characters or authors of books, or whatever can bring her interest. After establishing a good relationship with Maya and making sure that she is ready to talk, the counselor will do assessment. Through talking with Maya, the counselor can comprehend Maya’s feelings, her coping behaviors, her perceptions about the incident, her developmental tasks, and her ecosystem. At the end of the assessment, two main issues might emerge. That is, trauma from sexual abuse and racism-related issues, including obsession with race and an identity issue.
It is said that counselors are ethically and legally mandated to report suspicions of child sexual abuse to authorities (Miller, Dove, & Miller, 2007). Therefore, documenting and reporting the suspected sexual abuse of Maya is the counselor’s first job. In the specific counseling session, the counselor needs to consider that treatment issues for child victims of rape typically includes many symptoms. Some of these symptoms include anger, trust issues, social withdrawal, self-blame, emotional dysregulation, dissociation, eating disorders, self-injury, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Budrionis & Jongsma, 2003).
Previous research suggests cognitive-behavioral approaches “reduce the impact” of (child) sexual abuse (Berliner & Elliot, 2002), and are more effective than supportive therapy in promoting improvements in children’s knowledge about body safety skills (Deblinger, Stauffer, & Steer, 2001). The counselor could apply cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to identify distorted thinking, like how Maya thought being raped and Mr. Freeman’s death were caused by her; modify beliefs; facilitate relating to others in different ways; and changes Maya’s behaviors associated with her trauma.
Next, the counselor needs to deal with the racism-related issues that Maya is experiencing. Cross model of psychological nigrescense (the process of becoming Black)(Cross, 1971, 1991, 1995;Hall & Cross, & Freedle, 1972) indicated that the evolution from the pre-encounter to the internalization stage reflects a movement form psychological dysfunction to psychological health. Evidence from the book supports an assumption that Maya is in her pre-encounter stage, where individuals consciously or unconsciously devalue their own Blackness and concurrently value White values and ways.
This can be seen when Maya often imagines that one day she will escapes from her black skin and become a blond and blue-eyed white girl. African Americans at pre-encounter stage evidence self-hate, low self-esteem, and poor mental health (Vandiver. 2001), whereas African Americans with the greatest internalization of racial identity report the highest self –esteem (Pierre & Mahalik, 2005). It seems that accepting who you are and being proud of yourself are fundamental for African American to maintain mental health. However, long journey needs to be gone through in order to make changes.
For changing the perception of herself and her perceptions towards African Americans, the counselor could introduce Maya with some movies or books of outstanding African Americans. Facing racism, Neal-Barnette and Crowther (2000) found that parents who focusing on human values and ignoring the role of race more likely generate children’s higher levels of social anxiety, particularly with African American peers. It means, for African Americans, it is crucial for parents actively prevent racism by admitting existence of racism, putting this issue on the table, and guiding their children to confront racism.
In Maya’s case, the counselor could refer to Sue and Sue (2007)’s recommendation. That is, the counselor can employ family and community support systems. Specifically, members of the family and other important individuals (brother, Momma, uncle, teacher, etc. ) in Maya’s life could be asked to meet together in Momma’s home, and then all the members could share information about their struggles and search for identity. Sue and Sue (2007) indicated that, use of these techniques, derived from African American experience, can lead to personal empowerment. Reference Angelou, M. (1971).
I know why the caged bird sings. New York, United States: Bantam Books. Berliner, L. , & Elliot, D. M. (2002). Sexual abuse of children. In J. E. B. Myers, L. Berliner, J. Briere, & Ct. T. Hendrix (Eds. ), The APSAC handbook on child maltreatment (2nd ed). (pp. 55-78). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Budrionis, R. , & Jongsma, A. E. (2003). The Sexual abuse Victim and Sexual Offender Treatment Planner. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley. Cross, W. E. (1971). The Negro-to-Black conversion experience: Towards a psychology of Black liberation. Black World. 20, 13-27 Cross, W. E. (1991).
Shades of Black: Diversity in African American identity. Philadelphia: temple University Press. Cross, W. E. (1995). The psychology of Nigrescence: Revising the Cross model. In J. G. Ponterotto, J. M. Casas, L. A. Suzuki, & C. M. Alexander(Eds. ), Handbook of multicultural counseling (PP. 93-122). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Deblinger, E. , Stauffer, L. B. , & Steer, R. A. (2001). Comparative efficacies of supportive and cognitive behavioral group therapies for young children who have been sexually abused and their nonoffending mothers. Child Maltreatment, 6 (4), 332-343. Hall, W. S. , Cross, W. E. & Freedle, R. (1972). Stages in the development of Black awareness: An exploratory investigation. In R. L. Jones (Ed. ), Black psychology (pp. 156-165). New Yourk: Harper & Row. Neal-Barnett, A. M. , & Crowther, J. H. (2000). To be female, middle class, anxious, and Black. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24, 129-136 McPherson, Dolly A. (1990). Order out of Chaos: The autobiographical Works of Maya Angelou. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. Miller, K. L. , Dove, M. K. , & Miller, S. M. (2007, October). A counselor’s guide to child sexual abuse: Prevention, reporting and treatment strategies.
Paper based on a program presented at the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Conference, Columbus, OH. Pierre, M. R. , & Mahalik, J. R. (2005). Examining African self-consciousness and Black racial identity as predictors of Black men’s psychological well-being. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 11, 28-40. Sue, D. W. , & Sue, D. (2007). Counseling the Culturally Diverse : Theory and Practice. (5th Ed). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Vandiver, B. J. (2001). Psychological nigrescence revisited: introduction and overview. Journal of Multicultural counseling and Development, 29, 165-173.

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