The kids are dropped off in Arkansas and our story begins. Life sucks. They have no parents and racism is fierce in the South. By hey, at least they have Momma.
Everything changes with a few Christmas presents. Suddenly, Maya and Bailey find out that they have larger-than-life parents and they move to St. Louis. It's a classic rags-to-riches story, except they don't understand why they were in rags in the first place. It should be great, but the kids still feel insecure.
Maya is sexually abused and raped by Mr. Freeman. She goes mute after his death, and the rest of the novel is clouded by the damage that he did to her young psyche.
The climax is the big turning point, right? Maya's encounter with Mrs. Flowers marks the first day of the rest of her life. It all gets better from here. Well, mostly.
From the moment Maya decides to spend the summer with Daddy Bailey, we are in for a roller coaster ride. Everything that can possibly go wrong does. Why does Maya keep making the worst decisions?
After all that excitement, it's time for things to calm down. Maya heads back to San Francisco and gets a job—first black conductorette! Our little Maya has grown up so fast. The issues she had of unworthiness and insecurity are finally starting to resolve themselves. It's almost time to wrap this thing up.
Caged Bird doesn't have a home sweet home or triumphant ending—just a quiet one. Maya has a baby boy. With the pregnancy, all of Maya's insecurities are finally put to an end. Her baby loves her, and she becomes the mother that she never had.