I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Chapter 15
Maya wanders around aimlessly for almost a year. Then she meets Bertha Flowers. Mrs. Flowers is beautifully black, speaks in perfect sentences, and wears wonderful flowery dresses. Though she and Momma are friendly, Maya is ashamed when Momma does not speak correct English to Mrs. Flowers. Mrs. Flowers is like a character from a beautiful English novel for Maya. One day Mrs. Flowers asks Maya to accompany her home, bringing her groceries. Maya puts on a nice school dress, and Momma insists on lifting it over her head to show Mrs. Flowers her sewing job. Maya is embarrassed and Mrs. Flowers knows it, which makes it worse. On the walk home, Mrs. Flowers tells Maya, "language is man's way of communicating with his fellow man and it is language alone that separates him from the lower animals." Chapter 15, pg. 95 Maya has never thought of this before. Mrs. Flowers encourages her to read, giving her books and telling her to read them aloud. She offers Maya cookies and lemonade that she made especially for her. She shows Maya what a difference a voice can make: reading from A Tale of Two Cities, Mrs. Flowers makes the book sound like a poem. Maya runs home in excitement, but stops before she reaches home so she won't get scolded for running. She brings some cookies for Bailey, saying, "By the way, Bailey, Mrs. Flowers sent you some tea cookies" Chapter 15, pg. 99. Momma suddenly gets very angry, makes the three of them pray together, and beats Maya. Only afterward does she explain that "by the way" refers to Jesus (Jesus is "the Way, the Truth and the Light") and is therefore a blasphemous phrase. Bailey tries to explain that it is just an expression, but Momma refuses to listen.