In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, respectively, Betty Smith and Maya Angelou vividly paint the places, people, and customs that contextualize Francie and Marguerite’s growth. In fact, the societies to which both the protagonists and the authors talk back contribute greatly to how they express themselves. The interplays between past and present and between personal and public all inform how Smith and Angelou describe and develop the stories of their younger selves. While it might sound strange to find such dynamism in something as apparently inert as written word, the works might rightfully be understood as speeches in a conversation: the ideas and experiences presented in both works gain meaning in their historical contexts but also in their reception by audiences and the further legacies that Smith and Angelou built after the publications of their first books.
Laytham, Maya, "“Nothing Much Happens”: the Process of Constructing Coherent Selves in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" (2021). English Senior Capstone. 13.