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Childhood Memoir - Maya Angelou.

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Alanna Le Sueur H. English Period 4 Dec. 17th, 2003 Childhood Memoir Essay Throughout Maya Angelou's childhood, major obstacles do not cease to be thrown at her. This includes the obstacle she was born with, which is being a black female, in a harsh world of Jim Crow laws, racism and sexism, a real world existing during the 1930's-1940's in southern America. She depicts this world to us through the eyes of an innocent, confused little girl searching for her place in a hard world that is reluctant to accept her in it. Overall, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an honest, heartfelt depiction of the struggles of racial and gender discrimination endured by a southern black girl. In this childhood memoir, Maya Angelou vividly describes herself as a child through many different events and experiences that shape her character. Between the ages of 3 and 16 years old, Maya is moved around from 7 different homes. This leaves her with a deep sense of displacement and causes her to remain shy, introverted and reserved throughout her childhood; she puts up a shield, constantly repeating to herself the phrase "I didn't come to stay"(p.58), trying to remind herself not to get too close to people because she will just be moved again soon anyhow. ...read more.


"The white kids were going to have a chance to become Galileos and Madame Curies and Edisons and Gauguins, and our boys (the girls weren't even in on it) would try to be Jesse Owenses and Joe Louises"(p.151). Maya vividly describes the speech: "The man's dead words fell like bricks...and too many would stay settled in my belly"(p.151). This speech has a huge impact on Maya and her outlook on things, and from this day on, Maya tries to turn things around. She defies the idea of a racist glass ceiling that she once held and accepted, and longs to break through it, proving the speaker, a harsh representation of society wrong. Through several events in her early adolescence, we can see that she has become more independent, strong and self-assured. Also, her ignorance has evolved into awareness, as she describes: "I had gone from being ignorant of being ignorant to being aware of being aware"(p. 230). The hard experiences enforced upon her by her environment had molded her into a strong young black woman. She shows her newfound confidence as she becomes the first black streetcar conductor at age fifteen. At sixteen, she hides her pregnancy from her mother for eight months and graduates from high school. ...read more.


life, but despite being black and female, the most vulnerable people to attack from racism and sexism, they manage to maintain their dignity and self-respect. Throughout the book, none of them ever capitulates to racist dishonor and attack. This gives Maya strength, and helps her become confident and proud to be the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco, and she does so with the support and encouragement of her female elders. Overall, Maya shows that childhood is an era in which, with the aid of your environment and the people close to you, you find yourself and grow comfortable with it. Maya Angelou's book conveys the difficulties of going through constant racial and gender discrimination endured by a young and confused southern black girl. At the same time, however, she speaks about and deals with many other issues that not only black females can relate to, such as the relationships between parents and children, physical and sexual insecurity and confusion, child abuse, and the search for one's own path in life. These issues do not discriminate, and Maya Angelou has depicted the impact of these issues on her life honestly and gracefully. In the end, Angelou shows how these difficulties actually pushed her to become a strong, confident, proud black woman. ...read more.

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