Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

In Baby of the Family, Tina McElroy Ansa’s primary thematic concerns are the relationship between cultural and historical memory and the specific experiences of African American women. In her attention to the details of this particular geographic and temporal location and her valorization of folk culture, Ansa contributes to the richness of African American literature and storytelling and advocates for a central place for women in the culture.

Lena’s gift, which she cannot fully understand, and the alienation that results from it are easily understood as metonymies for misrecognized African American identities. African Americans as a group are the recipients of the gift of a rich cultural legacy, the value of which is not always recognized. As a result, the unique perspectives of African American culture can be seen as burdens that sometimes lead to the same type of alienation that Lena experiences.