Toni Cade Bambara “Gorilla, My Love”: The Issues of the African-American Community in the USA


Toni Cade Bambara was initially born and named Miltona Mirkin Cade. She was one of the influential civil rights activists and a professor in the United States. Born in Harlem, New York City, Toni decided to change her original name from Miltona Mirkin Cade to Toni and added her surname Bambara to appreciate her grandmother’s belongings. Moreover, two years later, after adding Bambara as her surname Toni wrote a short story known as “Gorilla My Love.” The report aimed to showcase to the audience and society, in general, the challenges that young African Americans were experiencing in their world. Through Gorilla, My Love, Toni was able to portray some of the issues of the African-American community in the United States. Most of Toni Cade’s hardworking is appreciated in many forms, such as at school, where the students are taught various literary devices to communicate a theme through a poem or any state of the art. Through the analysis of the “Gorilla, My Love” story, an individual can grasp the concept of family dynamics, the African American English used, and the condescending attitude (child’s point of view) given to characters concerning the African American girl’s life at that time.


Family dynamics is one of the widely used themes by Bambara in her story to illustrate the type of life that most young African American women were experiencing in New York City and North Carolina. Bambara utilizes various urban African American female voices from children to adults to retell the daily life in the city. Also, Bambara ensures that by emphasizing multiple female voices, there is an introduction of numerous traits. For instance, Hazel, one of the characters in the story, shows how her mother is loving and caring, whereas her father is calm but still understanding. Bambara grew up in a close-knit family who will go the extra mile to offer protection and love to their children, which is the kind of family that is associated with African American culture.

Further, Toni’s influence on her short story writing came from the New York City surroundings. Throughout her stay and work in the hospital, Toni was able to experience some teachings of the famous artists such as pan Africanists and Garveyites who were against the culture of jazz music in the region (Yoo). In conjunction with her work, Bambara gained the editing skills from the above teachings and edited some of her already established career, including tales and stories for black folks and black women. Following the successful production of her previous work, Bambara published one of her famous short stories collection Gorilla, My Love, to display the African American women’s relationships and self-love.

Also, Bambara risked traveling to communist nations such as Vietnam and Cuba to conduct research on women and offer her academic assistance to various universities about women’s lifestyles. Bambara’s trip to Cuba and Viet Nam inspired her to publish a novel named “The Salt Eaters” which earned her the American book award in 1980 (Yoo). Also, with her various contribution to the literature, Toni received one of the prestigious writing honors, “The Langston Hughes Society Award.” The award was due to her active participation in writing and filmmaking composed of social and political themes.

Literary Analysis

Through the usage of African American English, Toni tries to get the audience’s full attention by making them feel like the first-hand story listener. African American English is all about the dialectal writing that drives the audience to understand the words spoken by the characters. For instance, Hazel’s character in Gorilla, My Love utilizes African American English during her first observations in the Norton introduction to literature. Therefore, the complete reliance on Africana American English is meant to submerge the audiences in the African American culture, which is among the story’s themes.

Further, the interlinkage of first-person narration to that of African American English tends to enhance or spice up the reality of Toni’s Story. Most of Bambara’s story has been appreciated from a comprehensive perspective, such as the “Gorilla, My Love” for its unique musical rendering of the African American English through the energy of its first-person narration. Bambara relied heavily on black English to ensure that the target audience understood what life was like for African American girls in 1972 (Bambara). The usage of a specific language style in the story was necessary to connect the audience with African American culture.

The condescending attitude portrayed by various adults in the story implied what or how life was growing up as a girl in the African American community. Throughout the story, the child’s point of view is demonstrated to drive the readers into the child-like thought regarding the mental status of the characters. Bambara relies heavily on this specific age group to portray the African American culture and represent the individuals who grew up in society. For instance, Toni does not filter hazel character concerning her treatment of the children’s argument during her interaction with the manager. Therefore, the utilization of the child’s point of view in the story demonstrates a common and realistic attitude of the adults towards children during the 1972 era (Bambara, 185).

On the other hand, Toni settled on including the child’s perspective because she had been brought up from an adult life’s perspective. Through the description of some of the influential people in her life, she demonstrates how they natured her career towards becoming mature at an early age. For example, in the statement, “in every neighborhood I lived in, there were always two types of women that somehow pulled me and sort of got their wagons in a circle around me. I call them Miss Naomi and Miss Gladys, although I’m sure they came under various names” shows how they contributed to her success story of being a writer (Bambara, 185). Thus, it is evident that Toni has been exposed to adult behaviors early, which sparked her passion for writing from the child’s perspective.


In conclusion, Bambara has accomplished some of her objectives with “Gorilla, My Love” by incorporating the main comedic character combined with African American English. The usage of the average African American family demonstrates the superiority complex of the adults in the 1972 period. Further, Bambara has left a historical significance to the upcoming African American generation of how culture exists in society. Most academic institutions rely on the literature work of Bambara to enlighten the students on critical stylistic devices to employ when writing. Therefore, Toni will remain the society emblem for contributing heavily to the economic and social development of the Africana American culture.


Bambara, Toni Cade. Gorilla, My love. Random House, 1972.

Yoo, Jiwon Amy. “Toni Cade Bambara (1939-1995) BlackPast, BlackPast, 2019.

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StudyStroll. "Toni Cade Bambara “Gorilla, My Love”: The Issues of the African-American Community in the USA." July 18, 2022.


StudyStroll. 2022. "Toni Cade Bambara “Gorilla, My Love”: The Issues of the African-American Community in the USA." July 18, 2022.


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