Maya Angelou Sexual Abuse

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Maya Angelou recalls the first seventeen years of her life, discussing her unsettling childhood in her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Maya and Bailey were sent from California to the segregated South to live with their grandmother, Momma. At the age of eight, Maya went to stay with her mother in St. Louis, where she was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. Maya confronts these traumatic events of her childhood and explores the evolution of her own strong identity. Her individual and cultural feelings of displacement, caused by these incidents of sexual abuse, are mediated through her love for literature. In this research paper I will be analyzing if the sexual abuse, molestation, and/or rape Maya…show more content…
Freeman sexually abused Maya, she is unable to control her body or words which signals the domination of her body by others. Even in the opening scene, there is a combination of Maya’s inability to control her appearance, words, and bodily functions. The inability to create a story about her body “pervades the remainder of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as Maya struggles to cope with her emerging womanhood” (Vermillion 252). Instead of letting the mute and sexually abused Maya represent the black female body in her text, she begins to reembody Maya by critiquing her admiration for white literary speech and writing. On example of this critique can be seen in Maya’s meeting with Mrs. Bertha Flowers. Angelou presents the older black woman as a direct opposite of young Maya, stressing that Mrs. Flowers rules both her words and body. “She had the grace of control to appear warm in the coldest weather, and on the Arkansas summer days it seemed she had a private breeze which swirled around, cooling her” (Angelou 77). Mrs. Flowers makes Maya proud to be black, and claims that she is more beautiful and “just as refined as whitefolks in movies and books” (Angelou 79). Although Maya begins to respect and admire the black female body, the white body still provide her standard for beauty, and Angelou pokes fun at the literary writing that whitens Maya’s view of Bertha Flowers and
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