Maya Angelou and her brother were sent to California by their father to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. Maya was three years old and her brother was four years old at the time. Their grandmother ran a store down in Stamps; it was the focus of life in the Negro community of the town. While the time spent in Stamps with her grandmother Maya starts to read more often and enjoys Shakespeare, along with famous black writers. Maya would always hate how her grandmother would obey every white person without hesitation, it angered her. A couple of white girls mock her grandmother, and then one of them does a handstand showing off that she doesn’t have any underwear on. Maya is inflamed with anger at the girls behavior, but her grandmother acts like nothing happened and gives them respect the entire time.
The Great Depression ends up hitting Stamps, and leads to difficulty pulling in enough of money to keep the store up and running. But her grandmother was able to figure out a system of trade. Christmas comes around, and Maya and Bailey get some presents from their parents; they haven’t heard from them in years. Both, Maya and Bailey didn’t want to be reminded of being sent away and neglected, they became sad thinking about it. A year later, Maya and Bailey’s father comments down to Stamps to visit them, and it’s hard for the both of them to face their father. When he leaves back to California, he takes Maya and Bailey with him, and it makes them feel like they’re wanted again. But they soon find out that he married and left with another woman that they don’t even know. They finally get to see their actual mother and they are completely taken with her. This made Maya and Bailey feel better about their father abandoning them.
Since Maya and Bailey left California when they were so young, they found that the city is so big, and it’s nothing like how people act in Stamps. Maya gets to see her extended family on her mother’s side. She gets to see her other grandmother, and her mother’s three angry brothers. Maya and Bailey stay with their mother, and her boyfriend Mr. Freeman. One day in the morning Mr. Freeman molests Maya and the experience stunned her. He threatened Maya and told her if she ever tells someone he will kill Bailey, which scares her into silence. Later that day he does it again when no one is home, and Maya ends up physically and emotionally scarred. Eventually Bailey and her mother find her stained panties, and figure out what had happened to her.
Mr. Freeman was arrested that day, and he was put on trial. During the trial Mr. Freeman’s attorney asks Maya if Mr. Freeman had ever touched her before. Maya lies and says no; she feels that if she tells the truth Mr. Freeman will follow through with his threat. She feels even worse every time she lies, but she doesn’t her brother’s life to probably be taken. Somehow Mr. Freeman was beaten to death and it makes her feel even worse than she already was, so she decided to stop talking to everyone besides Bailey. Later on Maya and Bailey get sent back to Stamps; she thinks it’s because of how quiet she is about everything now.
Maya and Bailey are questioned around the town by the people of Stamps. People come by and ask them how the city was; Maya is now so silent and gloomy and she becomes even more silent for a few years, only communicating with Bailey. One day Maya met this graceful and wise woman named Mrs. Flowers. She invites Maya to her house to have a talk with her. Mrs. Flowers is Maya’s home room teacher when she gets to school, she was relieved. When she invited Maya to her house Mrs. Flowers says even though Maya puts in good work in class, she needs to talk more. Mrs. Flowers stresses that a spoken language is important. She sends Maya home with books so she can read them aloud. Maya eventually regains her will to speak, and feels great about being noticed and taught by her favorite teacher Mrs. Flowers.
Maya starts working for a woman named Mrs. Cullinan, a oppressive white woman in town. Mrs. Cullinan begins to treat Maya rudely and orders Maya not to call her by her real name, Marguerite anymore. Maya ends up disliking her more and more everyday. Maya is tired of working for Mrs. Cullinan, so she decides to drop one of her favorite dishes. Mrs. Cullinan fires Maya on the spot. Maya’s plan was successful and satisfied.
One Saturday, Bailey comes back home late from the movies and it worried Momma. Maya and Momma find him walking around pacing looking depressed. Maya is really worried for him; he is the closest to her. He tells Maya that one of the actress looks like their mother. Maya and Bailey end up watching every movie with that actress in them and they find it like their mother is onscreen.
The Joe Louis fight is on, and people cram Momma’s store while listening to the fight on the radio. His opponent is a white man, so of course everyone supports Joe Louis because he is black. Joe Louis ends up winning the fight, and almost every black person believed that Joe Louis had proved that they were the strongest people in the world. Joe Louis victory gave hope and power to the people of Stamps.
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