By Jolee Lindin
Gorilla, My Love is a collection of short stories written by Toni Cade Bambara. This collection was published in 1972 by Random House. Bambara is also the author of The Black Woman, Tales and Short Stories for Black Folk, and Junior Case Book on Racism.
Gorilla, My Love leans towards being a feminist collection, with a lot of the narrators being young girls. Throughout the collection Bambara indulges the audience in her female characters by giving them badass personalities and qualities. This includes more than just the narrators as well. Hazel is one of the narrators of the collection and she tells it how it is. One of the most memorable moments of Hazel’s narration is in the short story “Gorilla, My Love”. She emphasizes that if someone says something, they better mean it: “Cause if you say Gorilla, My Love, you suppose to mean it” (Bambara 170).
Another powerful female character, who isn’t a narrator, is Miss Moore from the short story “The Lesson”. Miss Moore is kind enough to take the children to different educational places to teach them different things. Although the children’s parents think Miss Moore is a little strange, they still allow their children to take these wonderful opportunities that Miss Moore presents to them. The children don’t always enjoy where they go, but Miss Moore doesn’t let the children get to her. She continues to use her patience to give the children a great experience.
Because female child narrators seem to be an ongoing theme throughout the collection there seems to be this idea of innocence, but also this feeling of tension between the generational gap throughout the collection. You see examples of both these things in the stories, “The Hammer Man”, “Happy Birthday”, and “Basement.” In “The Hammer Man” there is an incident between the narrator, a young girl, and Manny with the police. The narrator and Manny are at the park shooting hoops when the police come by and ask them, “Who unlocked the gate?” (Bambara 40). Although the narrator and Manny aren’t doing anything wrong the police try to get them to leave. However, the narrator stands up to the police saying, “this here’s a free country. So why don’t you give him back his ball” (Bambara 41). This shows the innocence of the narrator, but it also shows the tension between the generational gaps of the characters as well.
This was a great collection to read and I really enjoyed learning about the cultures of different time periods for different people. Using children as narrators was a risky but rewarding idea. I could really connect to the stories and put myself in the shoes of the narrators. It allowed me to see from a different perspective that I really enjoyed diving into. Although this story collection was “straight-up fiction,” the events that took place and the themes that were present seemed very realistic. They took you for a journey while also staying connected and true to the whole collection. I believe many high school students would enjoy this collection because of the funny but simple stories included within the collection. It is also very focused on the younger generation at this time and the innocence of younger kids to teenagers that kids now might be able to relate to.