After leaving Big Bailey’s friends’ house, Maya spends the night in a car in a junkyard. When she wakes, a group of black, Mexican, and white homeless teenagers stand outside laughing at her through the windows. They tell her she can stay as long as she follows the rules: people of the opposite sex cannot sleep together, stealing is forbidden because it attracts police attention, and everyone works, committing their earnings to the community. Maya stays for a month. Everyone enters a dance contest on Saturday nights, and Maya and her partner win second prize during her last weekend. Maya learns to appreciate diversity and tolerance fully that month, something that influences her the rest of her life, she notes in retrospect. At the end of the summer, Maya calls Vivian and asks her to pay her airfare to San Francisco. The group accepts the news of her impending departure with detachment, although everyone wishes her well.
Maya notes that she has changed much since the start of the summer, but Bailey, who also seems to have aged significantly, shows indifference toward Maya’s tales. Still, they share an interest in dancing and become a sensation at the big-band dances in the city auditorium. Meanwhile, Maya notes, Bailey and Vivian have become estranged. Unconsciously seeking Vivian’s approval, Bailey begins wearing flashy clothing and dating a white prostitute, trying to model himself after Vivian’s male associates. Vivian seems unaware that her own preferences have influenced his tastes. She demands that he stop dating the white prostitute, and he begins disobeying her rules. Eventually, Bailey moves out. He and Vivian quickly reconcile, and she promises to arrange a job for him in the South Pacific. Meanwhile, Maya acts as a neutral party but becomes terribly upset when Bailey moves out. Bailey assures her that he has a mature mind and that the time has come for him to leave the nest.
The Black female is assaulted in her tender years by all those common forces of nature at the same time that she is caught in the tripartite crossfire of masculine prejudice, white illogical hate and Black lack of power.
Maya decides to take a semester off from school and work. For weeks, she persists in trying to get a job as a streetcar conductor despite racist hiring policies. She finally succeeds in becoming the first black person to work on the San Francisco streetcars. When she returns to school, she feels out of place among her classmates. American black women, she says, must not only face the common problems associated with adolescence, but also racism and sexism. Therefore, it does not surprise her that black women who survive these conflicts possess strong characters.
The Well of Loneliness (a classic work of 1920s lesbian fiction by Radclyffe Hall) is Maya’s first introduction to lesbianism. She does not really understand what a lesbian is, and she begins to fear that she is turning into one because she confuses lesbianism with being a hermaphrodite. She notes that she has a deep voice, underdeveloped breasts and hips, and no under-arm hair. She resolves to ask Vivian about a strange growth on her vagina. Vivian explains that the changes are perfectly normal.
Vivian’s answer relieves Maya, but she still has unanswered fears about whether she might be a lesbian. Maya decides to get a boyfriend to settle the matter once and for all. However, all of her male acquaintances busily chase light-skinned, straight-haired girls. Maya casually and frankly propositions one of two handsome brothers who live near her, but their unromantic, unsatisfying encounter does not relieve her anxieties about being an abnormal girl. Three weeks later, she discovers that she is pregnant.
Maya accepts full responsibility for her pregnancy. She writes to Bailey for advice, and he tells her to keep it a secret. Vivian opposes abortions, and he fears she would make Maya quit school. Maya throws herself into school and confesses after graduating that she is eight months pregnant. Vivian and Daddy Clidell calmly accept Maya’s impending, unwed motherhood without condemnation.
Through a series of personal events, feelings, and thoughts, Maya Angelou is able to captivate its readers with her recounting of her life from her early years up to late adolescence. As readers, we are able to see how Maya grows from the insecure little girl in Arkansas to the strong woman who realizes that she can trust herself and will be able to keep moving forward, which is clearly shown when she realizes that she can take care of her son.
During the last chapter of the book, I feel that Maya does a great job describing the feeli... Read more→
220 out of 250 people found this helpful