Critical Overview

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When Gorilla, My Love, the collection of short stories which includes ‘‘Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird,’’ was published in 1972, it was hailed by critics as a powerful portrayal of the experience of blacks in America. A writer in the Saturday Review remarked that the book was ‘‘among the best portraits of black life to appear in some time.’’

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No full-length study of ‘‘Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird’’ has been completed, but critical discussion of Bambara as a short story writer generally concur on one point: Bambara is exemplary for her ability to capture the dialects and speech patterns of the characters she portrays. In an essay, ‘‘Youth in Toni Cade Bambara’s Gorilla, My Love,’’ Nancy D. Hargrove writes that Bambara’s narrators speak ‘‘conversationally and authentically.’’ Anne Tyler, herself a fiction writer, praises ‘‘the language of her characters, which is so startlingly beautiful without once striking a false note.’’ In an essay in Black Women Writers, Ruth Elizabeth Burks comments of Bambara’s range and dexterity in portraying languages. According to Burks, all of Bambara’s works ‘‘uses language to particularize and individualize the voices of the people wherever they are—on a New York City street, crossing the waters of the Pacific, amid the red salt clay of the Louisiana earth. . .’’ One critic, Caren Dybek, claims that Bambara ‘‘possesses one of the finest ears for the nuances of black English.’’ In her ability to capture the particular cadences and rhythms of her character’s speech, Bambara has been compared to Mark Twain and Zora Neale Hurston.

Critics also consider Bambara’s representations of black communities and concern with the formation of black identities. Burks argues that Bambara is less concerned with issues of race and class than many other black women writers: ‘‘Bambara appears less concerned with mirroring the black existence in American than in chronicling’the movement’ intended to improve and change that existence.’’ Burks argues that Bambara’s role is comparable to that of the griot, an African term for one who preserves history through story-telling. Bambara, Burk claims, ‘‘perpetuates the struggle of her people by literally recording it...

(The entire section contains 535 words.)

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Essays and Criticism