Friday, 20 August 2010
Toni Cade Bambara
Toni Cade Bambara (1939-1995) was born in New York City and grew up in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
As a child she began scribbling stories on the margins of her father's copies of the New York Daily News.
It wasn't until Bambara returned from a trip to Cuba in 1973 that she thought of herself as a writer: "There I learned what Langston Hughes and others, most especially my colleagues in the New-Black Arts Movement, had been teaching for years, that writing is a legitimate way, an important way, to participate in the empowerment of the community that names me."
Her stories, like "The Lesson," were often about children, but Bambara tried to avoid sentimentality.
She says, "One, we are at war. Two, the natural response to oppression, ignorance, evil, and mystification is wide-awake resistance. There, the natural response to stress and crisis is not breakdown and capitulation, but transformation and renewal."
In her short story, "The Lesson," Bambara explores and analyzes the problem of poverty. "The Lesson" is the story of a group of poor inner-city children who meet regularly with Miss Moore, who has taken it upon herself to educate them. The narrator speaks and narrates in African-American vernacular English.
"Imagine for a minute what kind of society it is in which some people can spend on a toy what it would cost to feed a family of six or seven. What do you think."
"I think," say Sugar..... "That is not much of a democracy if you ask me. Equal chance to pursue happiness means an equal crack at the dough, don't it?"
Miss Moore takes the children downtown to an expensive toy shop. The children are angry at Miss Moore. By entering the expensive toy shop, they became aware of their poverty.
Miss Moore wanted to teach them a lesson: poverty teaches children the value of things and the dignity that comes with knowledge and understanding. Sugar's answer validates that a lesson has been learned.