Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

In her essay ‘‘Salvation is the Issue,’’ Bambara says ‘‘Of all the writing forms, I’ve always been partial to the short story. It suits my temperment. It makes a modest appeal for attention, allowing me to slip up alongside the reader on his/her blind side and grab’m.’’ When her first collection of stories, Gorilla, My Love, which included the story ‘‘Raymond’s Run,’’ was published in 1972, it succeeded in ‘‘grabbing’’ the critics: the stories were lauded as ‘‘among the best portraits of black life to have appeared in some time’’ by the Saturday Review.

Bambara has been praised for her ability to capture the cultural richness of African-American communities, particularly as it is reflected in the voice of African-American people. Charles Johnson has noted Bambara’s ear for language and dialogue in his study Being and Race: Black Writing since 1970 (1988). He comments that ‘‘Bambara’s strength is snappy, hip dialogue and an ever-crackling narrative style that absorbs all forms of specialized dictions.’’

The close connection between Bambara’s characters and their communities has also been a recurring theme amongst her critics. In a 1983 article, Nancy Hargrove commented on ‘‘Raymond’s Run’’ as a ‘‘story of initiation,’’ in which Hazel Parker, ‘‘perhaps the most appealing and lovable of Bambara’s young narrators’’ in Gorilla, My...

(The entire section is 544 words.)