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Inventing the Truth Return to Group

  • 10 months ago

    Vignette from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Chapter 2 Information-grey


    When Bailey was six and I a year younger, we used to rattle off the times tables with the speed I was later to see Chinese children in San Francisco employ on their abacuses. Our summer-gray pot-bellied stove bloomed rosy red during winter, and became a severe disciplinarian threat if we were so foolish as to indulge in making mistakes.


    Uncle Willie used to sit, like a giant black Z (he had been crippled as a child), and hear us testify to the Lafayette County Training Schools’ abilities. His face pulled down on the left side, as if a pulley had been attached to his lower teeth, and his left hand was only a mite bigger than Bailey’s, but on the second mistake or on the third hesitation his big overgrown right hand would catch one of us behind the collar, and in the same moment would thrust the culprit toward the dull red heater, which throbbed like a devil’s toothache. We were never burned, although once I might have been when I was so terrified I tried to jump onto the stove to remove the possibility of its remaining a threat. Like most children, I thought if I could face the worst danger voluntarily, and triumph, I would forever have power over it. But in my case of sacrificial effort I was thwarted. Uncle Willie held tight to my dress and I only got close enough...

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  • ~ 1 year ago

    Vignette from Chapter 3, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Information-grey


    Her grandmother’s store in Stamps, Arkansas was home to Maya Angelou as a child. It was a place where people congregated and where she was capable and comfortable. She was intelligent, and, even at the age of 6 or 7, skillful at weighing out quantities and making calculations at the register.




    Weighing the half-pounds of flour, excluding the scoop, and depositing them dust-free into the thin paper sacks held a simple kind of adventure for me. I developed an eye for measuring how full a silver-looking ladle of flour, mash, meal, sugar or corn had to be to push the scale indicator over to eight ounces or one pound. When I was absolutely accurate our appreciative customers used to admire: “Sister Henderson sure got some smart grandchildrens.” If I was off in the Store’s favor, the eagle-eyed women would say, “Put some more in that sack, child. Don’t you try to make your profit offa me.”


    Then I would quietly but persistently punish myself. ...

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