‘‘Gorilla, My Love’’ is the story of Hazel, a young girl who feels that adults do not treat children with respect and honesty. Narrating her own story, she tells of two incidents in which adults demonstrated their untrustworthiness. Hazel comes from the kind of family that the author, Toni Cade Bambara, believed was under-represented in fiction of the 1970s: she is an African American girl living in New York City, in a home with two loving parents who emphasize the values of education and of keeping one’s word. Although Bambara herself was a political activist, the story is not primarily political. Hazel’s feelings are nearly universal, shared by most adolescents.
‘‘Gorilla, My Love’’ was first published in the November 1971 issue of Redbook Magazine with the title ‘‘I Ain’t Playin, I’m Hurtin.’’ A year later, it became the title story in Bambara’s first short story collection. ‘‘Gorilla, My Love’’ is one of several in the collection that feature strong first-person narrators speaking conversationally, rather than in a standard formal English. On the strength of this story and others, Bambara was widely praised for her ability to capture the authentic sounds of adolescence and of African American voices.