‘My Man Bovanne’ by Toni Cade Bambara

My Man Bovanne by Toni Cade Bambara, 1972

The magic trick:

Playing each side sometimes as the fool, sometimes as the righteous

I can’t get over just how good this story is. It’s got everything you want from a story. My favorite aspect is the way it plays both sides of a contemporary debate. It’s a story of the generation gap, first and foremost. And somehow it infuses both points of view with both satire and pride. Salty and sweet.

That’s a remarkable thing. Think about it. At one moment, she has puffing our chests out for the older generation, thinking wow, how silly those kids are. They’re so earnest! So pretentious! And then the next sentence, we’re so excited for the kids. They’re on to something big here! These older folks are just an embarrassment! They need to step aside and make way! The criticisms are razor sharp. But they’re never mean, so it’s easy to see both sides. And that’s quite a trick on Bambara’s part.

The selection:

“What’s my age?”


“I’m axin you all a simple question. You keep talkin bout what’s proper for a woman my age. How old am I anyhow?” And Joe Lee slams his eyes shut and squinches up his face to figure. And Task run a hand over his ear and stare into his glass like the ice cubes goin calculate for him. And Elo just starin at the top of my head like she goin rip the wig off any minute now.

“Is your hair braided up under that thing? If so, why don’t you take it off? You always did a near cornroll.”

“Uh huh,” cause I’m thinkin how she couldn’t undo her hair fast enough talking bout cornroll so countrified. None of the which was the subject. “How old, I say?”

“Sixtee-one or– ”

“You a damn lie Joe Lee Peoples.”


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