The essay considers Toni Cade Bambara's little-studied novel, Those Bones Are Not My Child (1999), in terms of its representation of testimony as a response to racial violence in the United States. I argue that Bambara's account of the historical Atlanta Missing and Murdered Children's Case recommends an expansion of current theories about testimony, in particular, with respect to the entwined historical and political positions of those who "speak out" against traumatic experiences in the context of racial injury. By dramatizing the clash and coherence of various forms of testimony-a mother finds her voice; a son suffers and exercises the power of his silence; and writer and reader conspire to witness without hope of conclusion-Bambara's book points the way toward a more complex notion of agency and a reformulated theory of testimony that are calibrated to the particular challenges of responding to historical and immediate violence against black Americans. To activate the testimonial practice that Bambara calls for in this epic final work, I argue, one must demand answers without foreclosing questions, speak into history without confirming its frames of reference, and lodge a grievance knowing its insufficiency to ease unending grief.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cultural Studies
- Visual Arts and Performing Arts
- Literature and Literary Theory