Text Analysis A: Education of a Storyteller

In Toni Cade Bambara’s Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions lies the essay and conversation that is “The Education of a Story Teller. Written in the late 1990’s, Bambara’s piece addresses an audience that is more than just the black community. While the piece very much feels like it could be written for her Grandmother or the women in her life and family, Bambara is speaking to a much larger audience. At the end of the piece, Bambara writes of an “us” in reference to these women within her family and life, but quotes by Grandma Dorothy such as “send your minds on home to the motherland and just tell the tale” seems to stretch to a collective audience (Bambara, 255). While it most definitely applies to Black girls and women, the message is heard loud and clear by anyone willing to listen. I know I am.

My understanding of Bambara’s work and the story she is sharing of her and her Grandmother Dorothy is that the experiences we have in this world are as valid of theories on how the world works as the most positivist lenses we can look through. When trying to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity to her Grandmother, who firmly encourages the sharing of this knowledge, a young bambara gets frustrated and is depicted “slump down in the chair” (page 248). Bambara quickly proclaims that “relativity is not one of them fables… with a useful moral at the end” (page 248). She tries to justify this by saying that Einstein was “one of those white guys from Europe” as if western thought was the only truth (page 238). Referencing Fanon, Bambara says that “to speak is to assume a culture and to bear responsibility for a civilization;” or in other words, to speak is to share a truth of a culture and hold the weight of that truth up with your shoulders (page 250). Following this, Bambara tells little tales of Black women and bodies moving across space and time throughout history in order to highlight that these experiences are just as much a truth as Einstein's theory of relativity, and even help to inform the production of new theories.

So while the text is explicitly critiquing this idea that a story is just as much a truth as any western positivist theory and that there is a multiplicity of truths in this world, Bambara also implicitly highlights that Black women are knowledge producers. This is done through the motivation that her Grandma Dorothy and Mother give at the end. They proclaim that one must “speak your speak, cause every silence you maintain is liable to become first a lump in your throat, then a lump in your lymphatic system” (page 255). While slightly graphic, for a young girl such as Bambara to hear these words from her Mother and Grandmother establishes this idea that Black women and girls must speak their speak because they are truthsayers in the same way as a western scientific theory.


Bambara, C. Toni (1996); “Education of a Storyteller”

Bambara: Education of A Storyteller Notes

  1. Page 246-247
    1. This story is starting of Bambara as a young woman
    2. “What are you pretending to not know”
    3. The grandma wants her to know and acquire everything
    4. She starts telling her grandma about einsteins theory of relativity
      1. The grandmother wants to hear it
  2. Page 248-249
    1. This is no song or singing tale but a theory of something and how the world is constructed
    2. She tries to convince of this idea that relativity is not some kind of fable but a truth
    3. Grandma wants to share that there are other ways to tell a story in earth wind and fire terms
      1. “If your friends don’t know it then you don’t know it and if you don’t know that then you don’t know nothing”
    4. Grandma dorothy taught critical theory
  3. Page 250-251
    1. “Stories should be informed by the emancipatory impulse that characterizes our storytelling trade in those territories”
    2. Stories should have mimetic devises so the tale is memorable and sharable
      1. It should be grounded in cultural specificity and shaped by the modes of black art pracricce
        1. The call and response culture
    3. “To speak is to assume a cutlure and bare responsibility for a civilization”
    4. Story of woman’s morality
      1. Woman are taught to be upright, dress down with knees locked and all
    5. The characterization of exemplary woman
      1. They were courageous, disciplined, skilled, and brilliant,
  4. 252-253
    1. Tale of resistance from women
    2. Tale of girlhood
      1. Moment of landing on the shores
        1. They were kidnapped and hearded over in ships
    3. The historical events on which the story is based
      1. A cycle of stories is derived
      2. It is the story of many many writers
  5. 254-255
    1. I love the or and
    2. Grandma dorothy to close
      1. We know how to walk on water
      2. Send your minds on home to the motherland and tell the tale
      3. Speak your speak
      4. Every silence you maintain is liable to become first a lump in your throat, then a lump in your lymphatic system