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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

16. The Search For Identity

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Activities: Author Activities

Toni Cade Bambara - Author Questions

Back Back to Toni Cade Bambara Activities
  1. Comprehension: What does Sweet Pea do for a living? Why do the gamblers pay her so much for her service?

  2. Comprehension: As Sweet Pea tells Pot Limit and Sylvia about her return to Larry's apartment, she admits that she "embroider[s] a little on the homecoming tale" to play to her audience. What does this comment indicate about her reliability as narrator?

  3. Comprehension: How do we know when Sweet Pea is remembering as opposed to storytelling? What is the difference between the two and why is it important?

  4. Context: Locate Sweet Pea's statements of self-empowerment and resistance to societal double standards for men and women, and consider these statements in relation to Marcia Salo Rizzi's 1973 poster I Am a Woman Giving Birth to Myself [6190]. Also consider Sweet Pea in relation to Melinda Beck's drawing, Racism/Sexism [6178]. Do you think that Sweet Pea is "a woman giving birth to herself"? What does this mean?

  5. Context: Muhammad Ali famously refused to fight in the Vietnam War, saying, "Man, ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong." Research Ali's stance and its aftermath. Also, relate his position to Sweet Pea's comment that "my nephew'd been drafted and it all seems so wrong to me, our men over there in Nam fighting folks who fighting for the same things we are, to get that bloodsucker off our backs." Who or what is the bloodsucker, and who is the "our" to whom she refers? Consider Sweet Pea's opinions and relate them to [6180] (When Women Decide This War Should End, This War Will End poster) and [6217] (It Is a Sin to Be Silent When It Is Your Duty to Protest poster). Should Sweet Pea be more active in opposing the war, or does she have enough to worry about in her personal life?

  6. Context: Compare Sweet Pea's self-empowerment in "Medley" to Dee/Wangero's self-empowerment in Alice Walker's "Everyday Use." How are they the same? How different? How do you know?

  7. Exploration: Compare Bambara's use of music, including jazz, in this story to Langston Hughes's (see Unit 10) and Amiri Baraka's (see Unit 15) use of jazz in their poetry.

  8. Exploration: Why does Bambara include Larry and Hector's "best story" about Bam's funeral? Does it matter that Hector is "not what you'd call a good storyteller"? Consider Sweet Pea's comment, "There was something in that story about the civil rights workers wanting to make a case cause a white cop had cut Bam down. But looked like Hector didn't have a hold to that part of the story, so I just don't know." Why does Sweet Pea comment on what Hector doesn't say?

  9. Exploration: Sweet Pea says that her friendships with Pot Limit and Sylvia help her recover from difficult days, but that she worries that no one will "intervene" for Larry in the same way. Consider the role of the African American community in this story. Use the text to identify the values of this community, including its strengths and limitations. You might also compare Bambara's depiction of community to Zora Neale Hurston's in Their Eyes Were Watching God.

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