The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The 1970 review of ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’

Placeholder while article actions load

“While I was writing the book, I stayed half drunk in the afternoon and cried all night,” Maya Angelou told The Washington Post in 1970 about writing her harrowing memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

From The Post’s archives, here is the original 1970 review of Angelou’s book, as well as an interview with her.

The glowing review by Ward Just reads, “There isn’t any easy, which is to say false line in the book. The distance, which is everything, is as true as a plumb line. She is outside and inside at the same time, looking at all of it with double vision.”

The accompanying profile of Angelou includes her reflections of her childhood, her family and her experiences growing up in the South.

“I don’t regret living any of it. It’s like brush lines on a painting. I have a feeling that I have a rich heritage. But I don’t write as if I’ve done all I want to do. I still have a lot of things to do. I’m really very lucky because those difficulties I’ve had have knocked those blinders off my eyes and given me peripheral vision. I’m a romanticist, but I’m also a realist,” she said.

Complete coverage:

Maya Angelou, writer and poet, dies at age 86

Photos: Maya Angelou, writer and poet, dies at age 86

Notes from Angelou’s 80th birthday celebration

Remembrances of Maya Angelou pour in

Video: Maya Angelou’s reading at 1993 Clinton inauguration

Video: Maya Angelou’s most memorable moments

‘If it falls, it falls, but darlin’, I will have been as present as possible’

Honored by National Portrait Gallery in April, Maya Angelou faces mortality and immortality

What Angelou wrote and said about race and politics

Capehart: Maya Angelou goes home

When Maya Angelou blasted Obama’s school-reform policies

Maya Angelou honored in March for her first job as a street car conductor in San Francisco