If Toni Cade Bambara does more than her share of editorializing before signing off with ""Black Blessings"" -- some...



If Toni Cade Bambara does more than her share of editorializing before signing off with ""Black Blessings"" -- some cheerleading here, some Soul-searching there, some proprietary and exhortatory ""signifyin'"" re contributors and contributions -- the energy of her eclectic collection and of her own opening entry is in no way diminished. ""Raymond's Run"" and its stream of (self) consciousness is affirmative in a tough, telling, cut-through way: says the narrator with constructive contemptuousness, ""I was once a strawberry in a Hansel and Gretel pageant.... I am not a strawberry. I do not dance on my toes. I run. That's what ! am all about."" And that's what the next two stories are about, differently: Langston Hughes' ""Thank You, Ma'm,"" in which a boy who tries to steal a purse and run is collared ("" 'You put yourself in contact with me. If you think that contact is not going to last awhile...'""); when he can run he doesn't -- ""Well, you didn't have to snatch my pocketbook to get some suede shoes,' said Mrs. Lucella Bates Washington Jones. 'You could of asked me.'"" ... ""'Ma'm?'"" Albert Murray's ""Train Whistle Guitar"" projects another kind of ambivalence about running: away, like ""don't-carified Old Luze"" who was ""blue steel"" (""an out-and-out nigger in the very best meaning of the word as Negroes use it""); ""You had to be rawhide but you had to be patent leather too."" With a jarring return to the conventions of writing (as against the freeness, hitherto, of rapping) Alice Walker recalls a scene from her childhood, and Pearl Crayton remembers ""The Day the World Almost Came to an End"" (""If you haven't had the world coming to an end on you when you're twelve years old and a sinner, you don't know how lucky you are!""). The sixth and seventh stories, which precede the second grouping -- parables/fables or tales (some originals, some take-offs) -- make a study in contrasts, Vanessa Howard's contemporary cliche comparing unfavorably with Gaines' professional, taut ""The Sky Is Gray."" The notes (reserved for the end, regrettably) reveal Miss Howard's age, fourteen: she, like one of the fabulists, is a member of the Fort Greene, Brooklyn writing workshop; several others are the editor's students at Livingston College near Newark. ""Sister"" Linda Holmes authored the crispest of the unfunny parodies: ""One day Chicken Licken was waiting to cross at the corner when out of the clear blue sky a policeman walked up and hit her on the head."" This is an amalgam of the genres that comprise the more formal Adoff anthology of fiction (Brothers and Sisters, 1970), Jay David's books, and Julius Lester's (his Black Folk Tales are specially mentioned, along with Virginia Hamilton's Time-Ago Tales of Jahdu). It's a commanding and never ambiguous assemblage that provokes introspective reading and encourages creative writing. Write on.

Pub Date: June 4, 1971


Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1971