African American author, Toni Cade Bambara, was born on March 25th 1939 and lived the first ten years of her life in Harlem. Plagued by the fact that she was African American and living in a time of such racism, Bambara's works contain both a capacity for laughter as well as a capacity for rage. She spent her entire life writing about both. "Her ability to laugh and imbue laughter into her stories came from her strong conviction and belief in family and community. Her rage came from the injustices she saw in the treatment of children, elderly, and the oppressed Black community" (bedfordstmartins.com). .
Bambara believed that her mother had a great respect for the life of the mind and always encouraged the author to go with her heart. In one of her anthologies Bambara remembers her mother by saying "Mama, who in 1948, having come upon me daydreaming in the middle of the kitchen floor, mopped around me" (georgetown.edu). Her mother was her true source of inspiration.
In her short story, The Lesson, many of her personal beliefs and attitudes are apparent. First off, the story is about a poor family of African American children who take a trip into the city with an old woman named Miss Moore. While on their little trip, Miss Moore takes the children to FAO Schwarz, a high class toy store shopped in by only rich white folk. Most of the children express their shock and surprise at the fact that a toy sailboat costs $1,195. However, the narrator, Sylvia, will not admit to everyone that she is bothered by the fact that her kind cannot afford such a luxury. To herself she says, "I read it again for myself just in case the group recitation put me in a trance. Same thing. For some reason this pisses me off" She then voices her opinion to the group by saying "Who"d pay all that when you can buy a sailboat set for a quarter at Pop's, a tube of glue for a dime, and a ball of string for eight cents? It must have a motor and a whole lot else besides.