I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Chapter 8
Stamps is a very segregated and racist town. White people have more money than Marguerite can imagine, and she can't understand how they can spend like they do. She thinks it is vain. The Great Depression hit the white section of Stamps hard, but since the black section was so poor and underpaid to begin with, they didn't feel it for a long time. In order to keep her store going when no one had money to pay her, Momma traded Welfare food (powdered milk and eggs) for her merchandise. So even though her family was relatively rich, they had to eat what poorer families could trade, in order to keep the store open.
That Christmas, the children get their first gifts from their parents. They are told that their parents live in California, where it is always sunny and they get to eat as many oranges as they want. Marguerite never believed it-she thought her parents must be dead, because she couldn't believe they could abandon her. When she received the presents, she could not deny that they were not dead-that they had simply abandoned their children. She and Bailey feel miserable about this: what did they do to deserve it? They cry, and begin to destroy the presents. Momma calls them ungrateful, but they understand each other's grief.