Savoring the Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara
Publication Year: 2007
Admiring readers have kept Bambara's fiction in print since her first collection of stories, Gorilla, My Love, was published in 1972. She continued to write -- and her audience and reputation continued to grow -- until her untimely death in 1995. Savoring the Salt includes excerpts from her published and unpublished writings, along with interviews and photos of Bambara. The mix of poets and scholars, novelists and critics, political activists and filmmakers represented here testifies to the ongoing importance and enduring appeal of her work.
Published by: Temple University Press
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In the process of bringing Savoring the Salt to print, we have incurred more debts than we can properly acknowledge. But we must express our deep gratitude to three special women: Karma Bene Bambara, who provided indispensable support and shared precious memories and photographs of her mother...
Conjuring by Any Other Name
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When she was a small child, so the story goes, Toni Cade Bambara was sitting in the middle of her mother's kitchen floor, writing. Since I was also a child who wrote at a very young age, when I encountered this autobiographical anecdote, I was able to fully imagine the specifics of the scene. She was probably still writing...
1. Savoring the Salt: An Introduction
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Savoring the Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara explores the life, art, and activism of a singular woman. Born in 1939, Bambara came of age along with the movements for social justice of the 1960s. She helped shape and was shaped by the Black Liberation Movement, the Women's Movement, and the struggle against...
2. Poised for the Light
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More than three decades ago at a black writers' conference in Atlanta, someone suggested that I write Toni's biography. I don't remember his name, but I do recall him saying that I might begin by taking notes on my conversations with Toni. I thought then, how could I, Toni's former student, write Toni's biography? Even...
3. Toni's Obligato: Bambara and the African American Literary Tradition
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Toni Cade Bambara belongs to the group of African American women writers who came to voice in the early 1970s, and her art shares much in common with that of Audre Lorde, Paule Marshall, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker. It, too, makes black female character central; it highlights intraracial rather...
Part II: Writing from Laughter, Writing from Rage
"A Sort of Preface"
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It does no good to write autobiographical fiction cause the minute the book hits the stand here comes your mama screamin how could you and sighin death where is thy sting and she snatches you up out your bed to grill you about what was going down back there...
4. Straight-Up Fiction: Sitting Down with Toni Cade Bambara's Gorilla, My Love
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I wish I had met Toni Cade Bambara. I wish I had sat down with her and talked about the secret moments that little black girls soon-to-be grown black women soon-to-be elders know only of themselves and others like them. I wish I had learned then that those who live on the fringes, on the barest of corners, on the outskirts...
5. Searching for the Mother Tongue: An Interview with Toni Cade Bambara
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Kalamu ya Salaam [KS]: Are you consciously trying to do anything particular with your style of writing? Toni Cade Bambara [TCB]: I'm trying to learn how to write! I think there have been a lot of things going on in the Black experience for which there are no terms, certainly not in English, at this moment. There are a lot of aspects of consciousness for which there is no vocabulary...
6. The Language of Soul in Toni Cade Bambara's1 Re/Conceived Academy
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Old Wife: I'm a get my walk in shoes soon, Min, cause them haints fixing to beat on them drums with them cat bones and raise a rukus. So you just leave me here and I'll talk to you after while. I can't stand all that commotion them haints calling music . . . Min: Old wife, what are you but...
7. Translating the Salt
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Translation was indeed not my first choice as a professional activity, even though my training was literary. I studied American literature and decided to write my "Doctorat d'Etat" dissertation on the works of Herman Melville, preparing myself to become, with humility and awe, a specialist in the American Renaissance. Then I...
8. "She was just outrageously brilliant": Toni Morrison Remembers Toni Cade Bambara
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In an October 1999 interview, author Toni Morrison talked about her long literary friendship with Toni Cade Bambara, and about editing her "magnum opus," Those Bones Are Not My Child---the novel Bambara worked on for the last 12 years of her life. Set in Atlanta in the early 1980s, Those Bones places readers...
9. The Making of Paper (for Toni Cade Bambara)
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In the early '80s, I spent two years in a writing workshop that Toni Cade Bambara held in her Atlanta home. Anybody in the community who was writing was welcome. I adored the opportunity to sit at this great writer's feet who knew so much about so much. In 1990, she...
Part III: "Making Revolution Irresistible"
From The Vietnam Notebooks (1975)
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In late May, I received an invitation from the Women's Union of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam to make a three week visit to the North as a guest of the Women's Union. At that time, I made some attempts, not terribly organized, but I made some attempts to contact a number of organizations in the Black community...
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Ah, there is a steadily more greedy shadow alienating us from our memory. That comes with time, which consumes us finally, to make us history. The consciousness of this, we mark by the completeness of our perception, rationale and use of the world. But also by the hostility and sadness pressed upon us by death. The death of our...
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In early January 1985, Toni Cade Bambara, Rosa Guy, Verta Mae Grosvenor, Audre Lorde, Gloria Josephs, Mildred Walters, Mari Evans, Alexis DeVeaux, and I arrived at Jose Marti airport in Havana, Cuba. Poet Nancy Morejon and members of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) met the...
12. Toni Cade Bambara, Black Feminist Foremother
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In 1974, Toni Cade [Bambara] had recently moved to Atlanta and was one of the first persons with whom my departmental colleague Roseann Bell and I consulted when we began conceptualizing our anthology, Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature...
13. At the Edges of the World
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I can't remember the year I first met her. Time doesn't seem so important when thinking about Toni Cade Bambara. But I do remember the scene when we had our first long talk together. It was soon after the publication of The Black Woman, and I wanted to interview her for a...
14. How Do You Measure a Revolution? Lessons Learned from Toni Cade
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In the spring of 2001, I joined a group of writers, critics, and musicians on a trip to Cuba. The trip was organized and coordinated by Charles Rowell, esteemed editor of Callaloo, the premier journal of black arts and letters. At the end of our weeklong sojourn in Havana, we all participated in an academic conference, a series of poetry...
15. Drive This Thing
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When we were living in Atlanta, a visiting faculty member at Emory left us in charge of her Porsche while she returned to England for a brief visit. My husband, John I. Lattany, and I were extremely conscientious about never touching her splendid...
Part IV: Teaching Usable Truths
From "The Children Who Get Cheated"
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The education of the nation's young is a crucial subject. And in recent years the public schools have been front-page news. Strikes, riots, disruptions and expos´es have revealed deep-rooted problems, have caused seemingly unbridgeable polarizations. Parents maintain that they are treated as outsiders. Students reject...
16. Dear Toni
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Dear Toni Instead of a Letter of Congratulation Upon Your Book and Your Daughter Whom You Say You Are Raising To Be a Correct Little Sister I can see your daughter walking down streets of love in revelation; but raising her up to be a correct little sister...
17. We Drove Together: Remembering Toni Cade Bambara
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The funniest thing to me about Toni is that she was a true New Yorker: She could not drive. So I picked her up two days a week to take us to Rutgers in my 1960 VWBug, which cost $600 in those days. Ha! Never Again. And the drive gave us a chance to discuss and change the world. At least in...
18. Lessons in Boldness, 101
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When making course selections as an undergraduate student at Livingston College in the late 60s, the only criteria that mattered was relevancy. If there was a course catalogue, I never saw it. The student grapevine provided all the information I needed for selecting courses.Was the teacher black? Was the reading list radical? Did...
19. A Timeless Truthteller
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I vividly remember meeting Toni Cade Bambara in 1970 when I was teaching at Princeton University. I was one of the founders of their Afro-American Studies Program and I also was an exchange professor with Livingston College at Rutgers University. Toni Cade was a very handsome black woman, and what occurred to...
20. T.C.B.---Taking Care of Business
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Toni Cade Bambara was/is one of the gems in my life. I was blessed to know from the beginning, over 25 years ago, how truly fortunate I was to have Toni as one of my mentors. Of course, I knew who she was before I met her. I vividly recall the first time I ever saw her. Nikki Giovanni was hosting a bid whist book...
21. The Feeling of Transport
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I first met Toni Cade Bambara in the most unexpected way, and the sense of the unexpected along with its attending attributes of discovery, mystery, and transport were features of our friendship...
22. Teaching Toni Cade Bambara Teaching: Learning with the Children in Toni Cade Bambara's "The Lesson"
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Toni Cade's young people live in an ethical universe. The issues they face are complex, and so are the answers, but they are there; rather, they are there to be sought. What matters to her is the process of their unveiling, the recognition of complex mutabilities, that the world of seeming certainties needs always to be reassessed, sometimes...
Part V: Guerrilla Filmmaking
"Why Black Cinema? (1987)"
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Thus, we find in the Afro-American narrative prose tradition as well as in the newly emerging Black cinema, attentiveness to time-honored ways of storytelling, constant use of circles, people gather, with the emphasis on "we." Classical in the sense that the people and the work are coherent. That...
24. Asserting My In(ter)dependence: The Evolution of NO!
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Toni Cade Bambara was accessible to the people. She did not allow her fame to separate her from the community from which she came. Toni was interested in character, personality, principled behavior, and commitment to struggle, not to status. If you met her and...
25. Things That Toni Taught Me
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I don't remember the first time that I met Toni Cade Bambara, but I will never forget the first time she gave me a lesson. It happened sometime between 1989 and 1990. I was a twenty-three year old know-it-all from San Juan, Puerto Rico fresh out of making my first film, AIDS in the Barrio (1989). The Neighborhood Film/Video...
Part VI: "Have to be whole to see whole"
From "Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions"
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I spend a fitful night fashioning questions to raise with myself in the morning. What characterizes this moment? There's a drive on to supplant "mainstream" with "multicultural" in the national consciousness, and that drive has been sparked by the emancipatory impulse, blackness, which...
26. Toni Cade Bambara: A Political Life of the Spirit
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Seeking a greater fusion between the spiritual and the political, and meditating on the unfinished liberations of the 1960s, I am drawn yet again into the extraordinary work of Toni Cade Bambara. Her novel The Salt Eaters, produced at a particular historical juncture in the late 1970s, offers us a critical assessment...
27. Toni Cade Bambara to the Bone: Cultural Worker in the Black World and the South
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"Those bones are not my child," are the words of a fictional character, Zala Spencer, whose young son went missing for months on end. When she finally sees him---once lost, now found---he, her child, is beyond recognition. She didn't deny the positive identification made by the authorities---police...
28. Terror at Home: Naturalized Victimization in Those Bones Are Not My Child
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In 2002, the purported "year of child abductions," the U.S. face of victimization was a blonde and blue-eyed girl named Elizabeth Smart.2 From Salt Lake City, she was affluent, Mormon, and played a harp. Less seen was the face of seven-year-old Alexis Patterson.3 Disappearing...
29. "something more powerful than skepticism"
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The purpose of this essay is to examine Toni Cade Bambara's utopian thought, particularly the remarkably rich vocabulary she gave us for describing and analyzing the sensuality of social movement and the day-to-day practice of instantiating an instinct for freedom. Indeed it is my view that...
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Publication Year: 2007