Chapter 1: Maya writes about the time when she and her older brother, Bailey, were shipped off to live in Arkansas from California with their grandmother. Their parents divorced when Maya was 3 and Bailey 4. The parents sent Maya and Bailey to Arkansas with a porter, but the porter abandons them in Arizona, leaving the two siblings to find their own way to Arkansas. Once Maya and Bailey arrive to their grandmothers house, Annie Henderson, and her disabled son, Willie, the two siblings begin calling her Momma.
Mrs. Henderson is a worker at and owns the only store in the black section of the Stamps. In the time of cotton- harvesting season, Mrs. Henderson wakes up at four in the morning to prepare and sell lunches to black cotton laborers before they begin a days work.
Chapter 2: Focusing on Uncle Willie, this chapter describes his hardships when he was younger and everything he has to deal with now. Maya speaks about the way Uncle Willie would treat her and Bailey when they would say theyre multiplication incorrectly, including the fact that he would burn them.
Uncle Willy was not taken seriously around the neighborhood but taken as more of a joke. One day when Maya is coming home from school, she sees Uncle Willy at the Store speaking to two teachers from Little Rock but hiding his handicap. Maya doesnt say anything because she understands that Uncle Willy is tired of everyone looking down onto him. In this chapter, Maya also becomes fascinated and excited about reading, especially William Shakespeare, but she does not say anything to Momma because she is afraid she wont approve of her love for him because he is a white man.
Chapter 3: Maya becomes fanatical about measuring dry goods in the Store with only the use of sight that she disciplines herself for messing up in which she can no longer eat pineapples. Maya begins to tell us about the mood of the story throughout the different time of days. In the morning, its full of possibility. In the evening, its exhausting. And just before bed, its full of hope again. One day, after Maya and Bailey finished there chores, Mr. Steward, a white sheriff, goes to tell Momma that the white people are angry because a black man has bugged a white woman. Momma hides Uncle Willy because she is afraid the white people will come after him and try to hurt him. Luckily, they dont.
Chapter 4: Often being told that she is ugly, Maya is tired of it and chaotic. She is said to have unusual legs, tangled hair, and to be too large for her age. Her brother Bailey is completely dissimilar. He is small, nimble, and a gorgeous looking child. If somebody picks on Baileys younger sister Maya, he makes sure to not insult, but that the upsetting person receives revenge. Maya then describes this man Mr. McElroy. He is said to be an independent black man that does not talk, smile, nor got to church. In Stamps, all of the food the people eat is preserved, twice a year Momma wants to have fresh food so she is sent to the white part of stamps to get some food. Maya then begins to write about the fact that no one knows what white people look like, how no one believed they were real and how they know think its a fairytale.
Chapter 5: In Stamps, there are rules including being super clean and respecting your elders by never calling them by their first name. Almost everyone obeys these rules except the white people. They go into Mommas store causing chaos and calling Momma and Uncle Willie Annie and Willie. Maya then begins to tell the readers about one of the worst experiences shes ever had. One day after Maya was cleaning the yard, 3 white girls came to the store being chaotic and rowdy. Momma sent Maya to go in the house as she stayed outside. Momma said not one word but just stood there humming a tune.
The three white girls began making fun of Momma and mocking her every move. Once they saw Momma had nothing to say, one of the girls moved back a little and did a hand stand. She was wearing a dress but wearing no underwear, therefore showing Momma her private parts. As all this is happening, Maya is inside of the house picturing herself shooting the 3 girls with a shotgun and crying her eyes out. Once the girls finally leave, Momma comes in the house happy as if she won, but Maya is confused.