When spring came to St. Louis, I took out my first library card, and since Bailey and I seemed to be growing apart, I spent most of my Saturdays at the library[.]
In St. Louis, growing estranged from Bailey, Maya turns to a steadier companion: books. From an early age, books have enraptured Maya. In Stamps, she prefers reading to playing with other children. Stories offer an avenue to escape the loneliness of her life. The characters she meets in books become her friends, sustaining her, feeding her imagination, and giving her strength. Books also serve as a source of pride for Maya, who excels as a reader, and provide an opening to a future as a writer in which she can be judged by the quality of her mind and not the color of her skin.
I had read
A Tale of Two Citiesand found it up to my standards as a romantic novel. She opened the first page and I heard poetry for the first time in my life.
After returning to Stamps, Maya becomes acquainted with Mrs. Flowers, an educated black woman, who teaches her that words are a unique and special form of communication. Before meeting Mrs. Flowers, Maya read books for entertainment and for escape. Here, listening to Mrs. Flowers read aloud, Maya first hears the music created by words in good writing. Under Mrs. Flowers’ tutelage, Maya becomes more attuned to the rhythms and pull of poetry. While she does not speak of doing any writing herself, Maya’s love for poetry continues throughout her childhood and early adulthood, setting the stage for her development into a world-famous poet.
Oh, Black known and unknown poets, how often have your auctioned pains sustained us? Who will compute the lonely nights made less lonely by your songs[?]
Maya expresses the power of words to uplift her race. At Maya’s eighth-grade graduation, the students, as a reaction to a white man who belittles their capabilities, sing a poem by James Weldon Johnson known as the Negro national anthem, which makes them feel strong and proud once again. Through his poem, Johnson transforms the hardships suffered by black Americans into a shared burden, made lighter because so many people share the load. Johnson’s poem reminds younger blacks that they are not alone though they suffer the disparity of race, and it further affirms that they are survivors.