Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Singing in the Comeback Choir is not a novel about racism per se, although bigotry is a constant in the African American experience. Bebe Moore Campbell said that all her works were somewhat autobiographical, and this book is primarily concerned with familial relationships and community, rather than unequal treatment of minorities. It is about the power of family and friends, the strength of love and caring, and the power of determination to realize life’s possibilities. In a quiet way, it demonstrates the importance of returning to one’s origins, of sharing one’s good fortune by working toward rebuilding one’s old neighborhoods, and especially of helping youngsters expand their horizons. The novel’s sense of being African American, proud, and hopeful sets it apart from more prevalent African American literature of despair and injustice.

Campbell noted that she considered writing a continuation of her earlier profession of teaching. She saw her goal in Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine (1992) as being to demonstrate racism’s tendency to wound both African Americans and whites. In Brothers and Sisters (1994), she sought to show readers the importance of getting along with “those who are different from them.” In Singing in the Comeback Choir, her aim was to foster the idea that “anyone who is willing to work hard deserves a second chance.” She added that the “lesson is an old one—try, try again—but it’s still valid.”