I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

2069 words - 8 pages

Soon after it was published in 1979, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings made the New York Times Best Seller List and continues to be a popular autobiography. Maya reached back just over forty years to capture the sequential essence of her life and those lives that affected her from the age of three until she became a mother at 16. She recalled her parents? divorce that resulted in her and her four-year old brother, Bailey, living with their grandmother, Momma Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas. Momma?s store was home for the children and their father?s crippled brother, Uncle Willie. It was here with a loving family that Maya began her survival in a Christian world with always a joke from Bailey to keep her laughing.But unlike most girls growing up, Maya was the victim of racism, sexism, and cruelty as she relocated from place to place and transferred from one guardian to another. Only Bailey was a stable influence, and then he too was gone. Maya considered herself to be an ugly black girl, and that fact was confirmed by the residents of Stamps. Her quick-witted, mischievous, and handsome brother, however, was always at her side to love and defend her.The title of Maya?s autobiography and her poem of the same name were taken from the poem ?Sympathy.? It was published by Paul Laurence Dunbar in 1899.Momma raised Maya (Marguerite) and Bailey in a Christian environment, where they attended the black Christian Anglican Methodist Church and worked in her store, where cursing and blasphemy were forbidden. A simple ?by the way? uttered by Maya was considered blasphemous by Momma because ?only Jesus was the way . . .? The funniest part of the book took place in the black church. One of its members, Sister Monroe, got the spirit and ran up to the altar, twisting and shaking ?like a fresh caught trout.? She was shouting, ?Preach it; I say preach it,? as the minister, Elder Thomas was preaching. Soon Sister Monroe clouted Elder Thomas on the back of the head with her purse, and his teeth jumped out. Maya and Bailey slid off the bench to the church floor in near hysterics?Maya peeing, passing wind, and howling, as Bailey, not under control himself, encouraged his sister?s discomfort by repeating, ?I say preach it.? Maya?s excellent memory matched her writing. She recalled that at eight years old, her father Big Bailey came from California to Stamps to take her and Bailey Junior to live with their mother, Vivian, in St. Louis. Maya immediately saw her mother as beautiful and her brother fell in love with his mother, calling her, Mother Dear.? Big Bailey soon departed.The children lived with Vivian?s parents for about six months before moving in with their mother. Grandmother Baxter was a precinct captain and had pull with the police department. She had three fearsome sons known throughout St. Louis, and the children heard of so much crime around them that they sometimes forgot that it was illegal. The even learned to dance in taverns.Finally, they moved in with...

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