Study Guide

The Lesson

by Toni Cade Bambara

The Lesson Essay - Critical Essays

Critical Overview

Before publication of her first book, Bambara had already made a reputation for herself as a short story writer, as an editor of anthologies of works by African-American writers, and as an activist in the New York African-American community. The impetus for publishing Gorilla, My Love came from a friend of Bambara's, who suggested that Bambara collect her stories, and indicated that Toni Morrison (then an editor at Random House) was interested in working toward its publication. With her first collection, Bambara established herself as a vital voice in the growing Black Aesthetic movement. Elliot Butler-Evans analyzed the collection in his Race, Gender, and Desire: Narrative Strategies in the Fiction on Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker:

The stories in Gorilla clearly locate the collection in the broad context of Black nationalist fiction of the 1960s. Employing classic realism as their dominant narrative form, Bambara constructed organic Black communities in which intra-racial strife was minimal, the White world remained on the periphery, and the pervasive ‘‘realities'' of Black life were presented.

Published in 1972, Gorilla, My Love includes fifteen stories, mostly written between 1959 and 1970. They focus on the relationships among African Americans, primarily in the urban North of Bambara's childhood. They celebrate sassy and tough narrators—usually young...

(The entire section is 596 words.)