Free Study Guide for I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings: Book Summary|
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Bailey’s encounter with white prejudice and hatred is chilling. It is hard for him, or the reader, to understand how a human being can treat other human beings so cruelly simply because of the color of their skin. When the reader learns about Bailey’s experience, it is obvious that Momma is sending her children to California to get them away from the horrible racism in Stamps. She loves her grandchildren too much to allow them to be destroyed by the southern mentality.
Maya does not actually think about seeing her mother again until the last day of the journey. Then her old hurts come back like a "much-missed friend," and she wonders if Mr. Freeman’s name will be mentioned. Maya is reluctant to meet her mother at the station, much like "a sinner is reluctant to meet his Maker." When she spies Mother Dear, she is "smaller than memory would have her but more glorious than any recall."
Maya, Momma, and Bailey, who joins them a month later, stay in Los Angeles and are occasionally visited by Daddy Bailey, while Vivian returns to San Francisco to arrange for her abruptly enlarged family. Momma adjusts admirably to a place that has white landlords, Mexican neighbors, and Negro strangers. She shops in places bigger than the town she comes from and traverses the maze of Spanish named streets though she has never before been more than fifty miles from her birthplace. But once arrangements are made for Maya and Bailey, Momma prepares to go back to Stamps.
Alone with their mother at last, both Maya and Bailey seem happy even though their life is very different. They stay in crowded quarters with the Baxters in an apartment near a railway line, and on Sundays they go to the movies instead of church. At school, no one encourages them or questions their output. They attend midnight parties with their wild and beautiful mother, who is honest enough to tell them that she earns a living by gambling. She also reveals that she shot her business partner for calling her a "bitch" when she confronted him for not shouldering his portion of the responsibility.
Soon after the start of World War II, Vivian marries a successful businessman named Clidell, who is the first real father Maya has had. The four of them move to their own place, leaving behind the Baxter family.
Life is very different for Maya and Bailey in California, but they adjust. The wild and beautiful Vivian is also very different in her lifestyle and approach to child rearing than the conservative and religious Momma. When her children ask her what she does for a living, Vivian tells the truth. She explains that she is a gambler, but she is proud of the fact that she never cheats.
Probably because of the responsibility of having a family again, Vivian remarries. Her new husband, a businessman referred to as Daddy Clidell, proves to be a good father for both Maya and Bailey. He moves the four of them to their own place in San Francisco.
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. 09 May 2017