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Free Study Guide-I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou-Summary
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Chapter 20

Summary

Opening with a childhood rhyme, Maya describes a picnic to which all the churches have been invited. It is a grand gathering. The women get a chance to show off their culinary skills, bringing fried chicken, salads, homemade pickles, country hams, sponge cakes, and chocolate cakes. At the picnic, they fry fish and barbecue spareribs. By the pond, proven fishermen and amateurs pull struggling fish from the swift water. Bailey and Maya carry in watermelons and ice them down in a large tub.

Maya feels awkward because of her age. She does not want to mix with the children, but she is still too young to be considered one of the women. When she needs to use the bathroom, she does not know whether to choose the one for women or for children. Unable to decide, she chooses neither and finds a secluded place for herself under a walnut tree.

To Maya’s delight, Louise Kendricks, a girl from her school whom she secretly admires, comes up and sits beside her. After sharing in a game, the girls hold hands and spin around until dizziness overcomes them. Then they fall down laughing. After the picnic, Louise becomes Maya’s first and best friend. They spend lots of time together and even try to learn the Tut language. Her relationship with Louise causes Maya to act like a child for the first time in a very long time.


One day at school Maya receives a note from Tommy Valdon, an eighth grader who asks her to be his valentine. Maya, afraid of advances from the opposite sex, shows the note to Louise, and they decide that she should ignore it. On Valentines Day, Maya’s class exchanges gifts and cards. Maya receives another letter from Tommy, her admirer. She decides that Tommy is not much of a threat and that she should be nice to him; however, every time she sees him, she nervously giggles. Eventually Tommy loses interest.

Notes

This chapter of Maya’s life is important, for it gives her a chance to be a child and relegate her past to the back of her mind. The summer picnic forces Maya to think about who and what she is. Fortunately, Louise Kendricks enters her life and helps Maya to be a child. Maya also takes her first tiny steps toward the opposite sex. When Tommy Valdon takes an interest in her, Maya begins to believe that someone could like her without wanting to hurt her.

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