Countering Hegemony Through Synthesis: A Lifetime of Commitment to the Black Community in the Works of Toni Cade Bambara
I argue that Toni Cade Bambara's entire corpus works to meld the spiritual, artistic, and political as well as the activist and the community. This theme is contained in her essays, short stories, novels, and films, but is best demonstrated in her two novels The Salt Eaters (1980) and Those Bones are Not My Child 1999). The Salt Eaters agonizingly expresses tension between the spiritual, artistic, and political but in the novel this tension goes largely unresolved. Inability to resolve these tensions leads to the protagonist's suicide attempt and political factiousness within the Black community. Though the novel ends with the protagonist's healing, her future, as well as that of the community, is largely left open ended. Those Bones are Not My Child however resolves many of the tensions presented in The Salt Eaters. Those Bones are Not My Child narrows the boundaries between author and reader, activist and community. The novel, through its focus on actual events also collapses the divide between fiction and nonfiction, calling for the readers to incorporate the issues in the fiction into action in life. I use four meta-themes as tools to examine the trajectory of Bambara's fiction and nonfiction as it meets the goal of achieving wholeness. These meta-themes are: countering cultural hegemony, accountability, resistance to false binaries, and reconstructing cultural memory. This thesis makes a contribution to the field of Africana Women's literary criticism because it concerns itself with the complete corpus of Bambara's work. It seeks to look at Bambara as a whole, as a writer with diverse interests, talents, and evolved with time. This thesis situates her work within a framework set out by Bambara herself, one that centers Black women's voice and experiences and thus continues in the tradition she sets forth as a writer activist.
African American Literature; Toni Cade Bambara