A Feminist Writer of Color
Toni Cade Bambara was one of the first writers to approach the search for black identity from a feminist perspective. In her fiction, as in the anthologies she edited, Bambara explored the world of black women, encouraging them to defeat sexism and social injustice through the exertion of their own powerful wills within a larger community.
While she was still in elementary school in New York City, Bambara was already writing stories, skits, and plays. As a student at Queens College in New York, she essayed everything from novels to film scripts. After graduation in 1959, Bambara pursued various interests, studying theater in Florence and Paris, holding various positions in areas of social work and community service, and, after receiving her master’s degree in 1964 from the City University of New York, teaching on the college level.
Throughout those years, Bambara also continued to write, producing and publishing many of the stories later collected in Gorilla, My Love (1972). Bambara described the works in this collection as “on-the-block, in-the-neighborhood, back-glance pieces,” which she said were inspired by a specific concern, the need to “insure space for our children.” What Bambara means by space, of course, is much more than playgrounds, which in high-rise ghettos have disappeared or turned into no-man’s-lands; she means also room for the spirit, room for children to dream, and, most important, to achieve the sense of self-worth that will enable them to realize those dreams.