The book begins in 1931 with Maya’s earliest childhood memories and proceeds through the end of World War II. Events of great social significance-from the misery of the Great Depression to the world heavyweight championship of the great black prize fighter, Joe Louis, an event that symbolized the ability of black people to compete in a white-dominated world-occur during this time period. As Maya grows up, the geographic setting moves from rural Stamps, Arkansas, to the metropolis of St. Louis, and on to San Francisco during a time when its Japanese residents were being interned as war prisoners.

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