"Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between": First Edition of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings; Signed by Maya Angelou; From the library of James Baldwin

  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.


Item Number: 90489

New York: Random House, 1969.

First edition of Angelou’s critically acclaimed first book. Octavo, original first issue book, with the top edge stained red. From the library of writer and close friend of Angelou’s James Baldwin’s library with his signature to the front free endpaper. Signed by the author, “Joy! Maya Angelou” on the half-title page. After Angelou’s close friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in 1968 depression had set in. Her dear friend James Baldwin, or Jimmy and her “brother friend” as she affectionately called him, took her to a dinner party to brighten her spirits, if only for the night. The party was at the home of the Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer and his wife Judy in late 1968. Everyone in the room began sharing stories about their childhoods, but when it was Angelou’s turn to speak, Mrs. Feiffer was blown away by her storytelling. The next day Feiffer called Random House editor Robert Loomis to tell him he should have Angelou write a book. Following Mrs. Feiffer’s orders, Loomis asked Angelou to write a book about her life, but she said no. Angelou considered herself a poet and playwright, not an author. He asked again; she declined again. Around the fourth time he changed his tune. She had just written a TV series and was out in California when he called. “It’s just as well you don’t attempt to write autobiography, because to write autobiography as literature is almost impossible,” she remembers him saying. “Maybe I’ll try it,” she replied. Loomis’s new tactic had been inspired by a conversation with Baldwin. Baldwin told Loomis that in order to get Angelou to do anything, you have to tell her she can’t do it. The reverse psychology worked. She isolated herself in London and began writing I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), the first of her seven book autobiography series. It was instantly a bestseller and is her most critically acclaimed work. Had it not been for Baldwin and Angelou’s pugnacious tenacity, the world may have never known she was a masterful memoirist. Near fine in a near fine dust jacket with light rubbing. Jacket design by Janet Halverson. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. An extraordinary association copy linking two of the greatest African American writers of the twentieth century.

"This testimony from a black sister marks the beginning of a new era in the minds and hearts of all black men and women... I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, liberates the reader into life simply because Maya Angelou confronts her own life with such a moving wonder, such a luminous dignity. I have no words for this achievement, but I know that not since the days of my childhood, when the people in books were more real than the people one saw every day, have I found myself so moved... Her portrait is a biblical study in life in the midst of death" (James Baldwin). Named by Modern Library as one of the 100 best non-fiction books of the twentieth century.

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