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Free Study Guide-I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou-Summary
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Chapter 27

Summary

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.


Notes

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.

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