Maya identifies with the city of San Francisco even though things are tense there during World War II. Everyone feels the threat of war and worries that the California coast could be bombed. The Asian inhabitants, fearful of discrimination and retaliation, are quickly fleeing the city. Blacks from the South are moving in to replace them.
Maya tells the story of a San Francisco woman who refused to sit beside a black man on a streetcar, calling him a draft dodger. The matron adds that the least he can do is to fight for his country the way her son is in Iwo Jima. The man turns around, shows her his armless sleeve, and tells her to ask her son to look around for his arm while he is there.
This chapter is Maya’s tribute to wartime San Francisco, a time of great change. Fearing prejudice and discrimination, the Asian population dwindles and is replaced by newly arrived Southern Blacks, who were eager and able to find work.
For the first time in her life, Maya feels like she fits in and perceives herself as part of something. San Francisco, with its air of collective displacement and the impermanence of life in wartime, dissipate her own sense of not belonging. The city is her ideal, for it is "friendly but never gushing, cool but not frigid or distant, distinguished without the awful stiffness."
Maya’s story of the black soldier, unlike most of her tales, is not related first hand. Before beginning, she explains that "a story went the rounds;" she then tells the story.
Although her grades are good, Maya is unable to adjust to the girl’s school into which she is admitted. Her classmates are "faster, brasher, meaner and more prejudiced" than any she had met at Lafayette County Training School. Like Maya, most of them have come straight from the South, but they have seen life in the cities. Fortunately, Maya is able to transfer to George Washington High School. At first, she is a little uncomfortable being one of only three black students in the school. She is also disappointed to discover that the white students are brighter than she and that some of the teachers seem to be prejudiced against the black students. Miss Kirwin, however, is a kind teacher that positively influences Maya. She encourages the students to read, does not indulge in favoritism, and does not seem to treat Maya differently because of her color.
Because of her performance, Maya gets a scholarship to the California Labor School, where she takes drama and dance classes. Although Maya loves melodrama, she is forced to take up pantomime. Bailey also encourages her to dance, telling her it will give her better legs.
This chapter traces some of Maya’s academic endeavors. She describes going to school at a girls’ school, at George Washington High, and at the California Labor School. She also takes stock of her life and pays tribute to those who have influenced her "Momma with her solemn determination, Mrs. Flowers and her books, Bailey with his love, (her) mother and her gaiety, Miss Kirwin and her information." She is grateful for the many people who have helped make her whole.
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