Deep sightings and rescue missions: fiction, essays, and conversations

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Pantheon Books, Nov 5, 1996 - Fiction - 257 pages
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On December 9, 1995, Toni Cade Bambara died at the age of fifty-six, a profound loss to American culture. In its obituary the New York Times called her "a major contributor to the emerging genre of black women's literature, along with the writers Toni Morrison and Alice Walker."
The author of many acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction, among them three pioneering and timeless volumes: Gorilla, My Love and The Seabirds Are Still Alive, both collections of stories, and The Salt Eaters, a novel, Bambara had not published a new book in the fourteen years prior to her death. She developed during that time a keen interest in film - as a scriptwriter, filmmaker, critic, and teacher - and collaborated on several television documentaries, including The Bombing of Osage Avenue, about the police assault on the MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia, and on the W. E. B. Du Bois Film Project. Bambara also helped to launch the careers of many other black women filmmakers.
Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions is a brilliant distillation of Bambara's original sensibility and a confirmation of her status as one of America's great post-World War II writers. Here is a rich selection of her writings, many of which have never before appeared in print: stories ("Madame Bai and the Taking of Stone Mountain," "Ice," "Luther on Sweet Auburn"), essays ("Language and the Writer," "The Education of a Storyteller), film criticism ("School Daze"), and a revealing interview.

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Deep sightings and rescue missions: fiction, essays, and conversations

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Bambara's (The Salt Eaters, LJ 4/1/80) artful storytelling and passion for writing and for film come through clearly in this posthumous collection of six fiction and six essay and conversation pieces ... Read full review

Contents

GOING CRITICAL
5
MADAME BAI
27
BABYS BREATH
45
Copyright

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About the author (1996)

Toni Cade Bambara, a well-known teacher, writer, and social activist, was born on May 25, 1939, in New York. Bambara's mother was influenced by the Harlem Renaissance and fostered creativity in her daughter. After graduating from Queens College in 1959, Bambara worked as a social investigator for the New York Department of Welfare. This experience influenced her writing and reflected her interest in the welfare of the black community. Bambara returned to school, receiving her MA from City College of New York in 1965, where she taught until 1969. It was in the 1970s that Bambara wrote her most important works, including Black Woman, Southern Black Utterances Today, and Gorilla My Love. Bambara's works are frequently written in black street dialect and are set in the rural South and the urban North. She is interested in the identities and experiences of the black community and writes about their effects as a society. She has also authored several film and television scripts. Bambara is a frequent guest lecturer, visiting professor, and community leader. She received an American Book Award in 1981

Pulitzer Prize-winner Toni Morrison is one of today's leading novelists, as well as a writer whose African American identity has helped shape her impressive literary contributions. As Jean Strouse, who wrote a Newsweek cover story about her, says, "Morrison hates it when people say she is not a "black writer."' "Of course I'm a black writer. That's like saying Dostoevski's not a Russian writer. They mean I'm not just a black writer, but categories like black writer, woman writer, and Latin American writer aren't marginal anymore. We have to acknowledge that the thing we call "literature' is pluralistic now, just as society ought to be." Toni Morrison's novels show a steady progression not only in artistic skill but also in the range and scope of her subjects and settings. The first three take place in African American communities in dominantly white Lorain, Ohio, where Toni Morrison, as Chloe Anthony Wofford, grew up as a member of a stable family of six headed by a father who often worked three jobs simultaneously in order to support his family during the Depression years. She graduated from Howard University and received a master's degree from Cornell University with her thesis on the theme of suicide in modern literature. She teaches writing at Princeton University. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), is an experimental work that begins haltingly with the Dick-and-Jane language of a grade school primer and slowly develops into a poetically tragic story of a little African American girl, and, by extension, the tragedy of racism, sexual violence, and black self-hatred. Her second novel, Sula (1973), is the story of two women whose deep early friendship is severely tested when one of them returns after a 10-year absence as "a classic type of evil force" to disrupt the community. Song of Solomon (1977) has as central characters a young man named Milkman and his nemesis, Guitar, whose fates are as inextricably linked as those of the young women in Sula. Song of Solomon is a thoughtful work rich in symbols and mythical in its implications as it portrays the complicated hidden histories of African Americans. Yet the book is readable enough to have been chosen a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and as winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for 1977. In Tar Baby (1981) Morrison extends her range to an island in the Caribbean and for the first time allows white characters to play prominent roles along with the black. Tar Baby is essentially a novel of ideas, but the ideas again are conveyed along with a fast-moving narrative with credible characters. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved (1987), a brilliant novel about a fugitive slave woman who murders her infant, Beloved, so that the child will not grow up to become a slave. Her most recent novel, Jazz (1990), continues her powerful explorations of African American communities.