At the beginning of the book Maya is a confused little girl suffering from the associated with being a black child in America. She is also suffering with the pain of living without her parents. Maya is smart and ingenious, but she always feels like other people judge her for being black. She feels very misunderstood and she hates being black. She thinks that she is trapped in a "black ugly dream" and will soon wake up and reveal her true self as a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed girl. .
Living with her "Momma", grandmother without her parents she believes her life is an insult on top of the general difficulties. Growing up in the South Maya meets with the same three impediments: white prejudice, black hopelessness, and suppression of women. In spite of all the difficulties she goes trough her early childhood in the South, she undergoes more traumas in her life. Her parents have abandoned her and her brother when they were little. So her brother and Maya struggle with the pain of having been rejected. She does not feel equal to other children and her brother always sticks up for her. .
Five years lather she have to leave the only home she has known to go and live with Mr. Freeman in a new city. He is her mother's new boyfriend, which rapes her. After the incident she's full of guilt and shame and she blames her self for Mr. Freeman's death. She believes that she has become a spokesperson for the evil, so she stops speaking to everybody. She regains her voice again after moving back to her "Momma". Were she starts reading poetry and read books out loud.
When she's sixteen she becomes pregnant. For eight months she hides her pregnancy for her mother and Daddy Clindell. Frightened telling her mother about it, she feels alone and suffocating in the pregnancy nightmare. But the little pleasure she was able to take from the fact that if she could have a baby she obviously wasn't a lesbian. For years, it looked, like she had accepted her hopeless life as it was.