Toni Cade Bambara Analysis

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Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Discuss how Velma’s mental illness in The Salt Eaters is the product of sexual bias and racial prejudice.

How does the African American tradition of oral storytelling feature in Toni Cade Bambara’s works?

Through what specific actions do young girls in Bambara’s stories demonstrate their resistance to social norms?

Explore how truth telling is an important aspect of Bambara’s work.

Who are the social activists in Bambara’s fiction and what problems are they trying to remedy?

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Before Toni Cade Bambara published her first collection of stories, Gorilla, My Love (1972), she edited two anthologies, The Black Woman (1970) and Tales and Stories for Black Folks (1971), under the name Toni Cade. Her 1980 novel, The Salt Eaters, was well received and won many awards. She was also an active screenwriter whose credits included Louis Massiah’s The Bombing of Osage Avenue (1986), about the bombing of the Movement (MOVE) Organization’s headquarters in Philadelphia, and Massiah’s W. E. B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices (1995). Her friend and editor, Toni Morrison, edited a collection of her previously uncollected stories and essays in 1996 called Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions: Fiction, Essays, and Conversations, and her final novel, Those Bones Are Not My Child, was published in 1999.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The Salt Eaters won numerous awards, including the American Book Award, the Langston Hughes Society Award, and an award from the Zora Neale Hurston Society. Toni Cade Bambara’s work on The Bombing of Osage Avenue led to an Academy Award for Best Documentary and awards from the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters and the Black Hall of Fame. Her other honors include the Peter Pauper Press Award (1958), the John Golden Award for Fiction from Queens College (1959), a Rutgers University research fellowship (1972), a Black Child Development Institute service award (1973), a Black Rose Award from Encore (1973), a Black Community Award from Livingston College, Rutgers University (1974), an award from the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club League, a George Washington Carver Distinguished African American Lecturer Award from Simpson College, Ebony’s Achievement in the Arts Award, and a Black Arts Award from the University of Missouri (1981), a Documentary Award from the National Black Programming Consortium (1986), and a nomination for the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Award (1997).

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Toni Cade Bambara (bam-BAHR-ah) is best known for her short stories, which appear frequently in anthologies. She has also received recognition as a novelist, essayist, journalist, editor, and screenwriter, as well as a social activist and community leader. Her stories depict the daily lives of ordinary people who live in the African American neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Harlem, and other sections of New York City and the rural South. Although she wrote in other genres, her short stories established her reputation. In Gorilla, My Love (1972), a collection of fifteen stories, Bambara focuses on the love of friends and neighborhood as she portrays the positive side of black family life and stresses the strengths of the African American community. These fast-paced stories, characterized by her use of the black dialect of the street, are full of humorous exchanges and verbal banter. The Sea Birds Are Still Alive (1977) is a collection of short stories that reflect Bambara’s concern with people from other cultures; the title story focuses on the plight of Vietnamese refugees at the end of the Vietnam War. Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions: Fiction, Essays, and Conversations, a collection of Bambara’s writings, most of which never appeared before in print, was published posthumously in 1996.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Toni Cade Bambara received the Peter Pauper Press Award in Journalism from the Long Island Star in 1958, the John Golden Award for Fiction from Queens College in 1959, and the Theater of Black Experience Award in 1969. She was also the recipient of the...

(The entire section is 1,301 words.)