Toni Cade Bambara is deep- her works cover issues that reflect the social climate, in particular, for people of color. Most of her works contain a sense of “black awareness” and she is well known for the dialogue and language of her characters. These dialogues are what give...
Toni Cade Bambara is deep- her works cover issues that reflect the social climate, in particular, for people of color. Most of her works contain a sense of “black awareness” and she is well known for the dialogue and language of her characters. These dialogues are what give life to her characters. These characters, though fictitious, are raw and their stories provide insight into their lives and struggles.
Gorilla, My Love is a collection of 15 short stories that remain true to Bambara’s style. I found I enjoyed the stories, when I took my time to read them and understand the tone and the message beautifully contained within Bambara’s colorful prose. At the first read, these stories can be challenging. They require the reader give them their due time and take in the scene, the characters and the symbolisms employed. Though this book is only 192 pages, which technically, is a decent quick read, I do not recommend it in the midst of a read-a-thon or aggressive end of year book challenge. I repeat, give this book time to really enjoy it.
There are several good stories in this collection. Some of my favorites were the title story, Gorilla, My Love, Hammerman, and Basement.
In Gorilla, My Love, the story is told from the point of view of the main character, Hazel, a sassy, tough, young kid, who holds people accountable for what they say. This is a significant theme for this story as things take a twist in the end, when she discovers that her uncle is preparing to marry. Her character is credible as young children are innocent and trusting of adults. They typically will believe what an adult tells them and take it as bond. This was a great read and I connected with Hazel at the end of the story.
In Hammerman, issues such as mental illness and race are covered. The point of view is the main character, a young girl who is aware of her surroundings. She finds herself in a little dilemma after she fights Manny (also known as the Hammerman). He is unable to shake this physical altercation and so chooses to wait for our main character on the roof of her house so that he will have the opportunity to fight her again. However, he is not just waiting one day, he waits for several days. The reader learns that Manny possibly has a mental illness, though many of the people in his neighborhood just refer to him as “crazy”. The main character later bears witness to a confrontation between Manny and some police officers who try to remove him from a basketball court when he is caught there playing after hours. It is very likely the officers do not understand that Manny has a mental illness and that Manny does not understand them either. Things become quite chaotic as the main character tries to make sense of what is going on and tries to step in to defend Manny. I will not say anymore…but get the book and tell me what you think.
Sexuality is the theme covered in Basement. We are introduced to this theme when Patsy, one of the characters in the story, reveals to her mother, the building engineer exposed himself to her and other kids while they were in the basement playing. This particular story is not extremely graphic, but there is a brief and basic description of what takes place in certain scenes. This particular story was interesting for me to read, as the dialogue was a child’s interpretation of the sexual behavior observed. This story is not traumatizing and should not discourage anyone from reading it—READ IT and appreciate the literary skills of Bambara.
Overall, I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars. What can I say? I recommend it. There are so many reviews out there on it, many of them from literary professors and scholars. However, I would encourage you to read it and form your own opinion.