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Those Bones Are Not My Child

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  348 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Written over a span of twelve years, and edited by Toni Morrison, who calls Those Bones Are Not My Child the author's magnum opus, Bambara's last novel leaves us with an enduring and revelatory chronicle of an American nightmare.

In a suspenseful novel of uncommon depth and intensity, Toni Cade Bambara renders a harrowing portrait of a city under siege. Having elected its f
Paperback, 688 pages
Published October 24th 2000 by Vintage (first published 1999)
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Average rating 3.64  · 
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May 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: novel
There is no doubt that this is a hard book to read. It takes place in Atlanta during the time of the Atlanta Child Murders. I guess I like this book more than most people, because I feel that Bambara did a good job of capturing the fear and tumult that Atlanta experienced. I still have my "Save the Children" button, that many people took to wearing as some sign of solidarity during those traumatic times. It didn't matter, though, we were all looking at each other with wary eyes. Bambara also dep ...more
Courtney H.
Jan 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Bambara died before she could finish this book, written and researched over a 15-year period. I would have liked to see what Bambara might have done with the editing process herself. Her friend, Toni Morrison, did the final edits, and it is clear that Morrison felt uncomfortable about making the cuts or decisions that the author herself might have made. I don't blame Morrison--Bambara is a master, and this was the work of a lifetime. How do you cut her words down? But I can't help but think that ...more
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
If Netflix (and other media creators) can stop masturbating to the likes of Ted Bundy and the same bunch for five minutes, focus can shift to horrific crimes like the one in this book, that victims' families are still fighting justice for. These victims deserve our attention. ...more
Mar 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Interesting subject, tedious presentation.
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
“Lady, Black boys getting killed in the South just ain’t news.”
“And girls,” she inserted. “And women and men.”
“I know how you feel, but I don’t make network policy. The news of the moment is Iran, when it’s not the election or stories about international terrorism.”

Sounds like it could be this morning’s news. But it’s 1980 in Atlanta, and more than forty black children have in fact been murdered, in a pattern that can be traced around “the city too busy to hate.” This novel, Toni Cade Bambara’s
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"While we may despise the treachery of lies, we seem to fear the squalor of the truth even more. Let us bow our heads and pray for the strength to overcome our own fearfulness...The government invented the term credibility gap to cover the distance between what officials know and what they tell us".

One of the most horrifying and saddest books about racial injustice I've read- this is the story of parents Zala and Spence who are looking for the son Sonny, probably abducted by a series of serial m
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fab-15, summer-15
This started off beautifully, yet I found it degenerating into a confusing mess. At times it is a glorious weaving, and at other times it’s a giant knot of confusing threads with no coherent whole. Her weaving is beautiful, in fact her individual threads are beautiful, but all too often I was left confused and frustrated. She is at her best when writing of the individual lives, the interpersonal relationships, the meaning of family. She is at her worst attempting to convey facts, hints of possib ...more
Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Toni Cade Bambara, a writer, documentary filmmaker and screenwriter, gives True Crime readers a unique viewpoint of the real Atlanta Child Murders. Bambara mostly writes from the eyes of Marzala, a mother of three whose oldest son goes missing during one of the worst murder sprees in Atlanta's history. Marzala and her family were not actual people during this time- - - all of them are based off of parents and siblings of the real victims. Not soon after Marzala does everything she can with the p ...more
Feb 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
I wrote a long review about this book and magically it disappeared. I'm taking that as a sign to be brief about my feelings regarding this book and move on to the next novel that awaits me.

This isn't a good read. It is way too long and rather than focusing on the plot it reads like research on the Atlanta Child Murders instead of the novel that it presents itself to be. The characters seem to be thrown in as needed and the main character-the missing son- is rarely even focused on. The book comp
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Much of Bambara's writing here is breathtaking and she lifts injustice and personal pain beyond the mere documenting of her research on these cases and their aftermath. But the work also suffers from lack of clear editing and should have been much shorter. Nevertheless her opus has stayed with me, the musical language and evocation of Atlanta. ...more
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I do not read mystery genre style books often, as it’s just not my interest, and this book definitely had qualities of mystery fiction that I find hard to follow - BUT this book is amazing. It’s speculative non-fiction. Filling in the gaps and view of a case that is an absolute miscarriage of justice and really makes me wonder how Black folk in America are not angrier. Bambara’s writing is timeless, using the context of just one case where Black voices are disregarded and the value of Black live ...more
I don’t feel like it is fair to rate this book as I only read 200 pages of it but i just could not get engaged in it. It didn’t capture my interest and I found myself looking on my phone or getting otherwise distracted.

It follows the quotidian life of 2 parents after their son goes missing and the racism they face trying to get the police to do anything about it. I think it is just too slow paced for my liking right now although the dragging monotony of life without any answers or progression e
Apr 06, 2020 rated it liked it
This is an in-depth novel set in Atlanta, GA, in the early 1980s...a terrifying time when African American children were going missing and murdered and it was basically being swept under the rug by authorities.

The writing style was unusual. It has a way of talking around scenes that I've seen in other books and which never fails to confuse me. I don't know if it's me or what, but I had difficulty trying to discern who was speaking and what the setting was.

The writing style is incredibly detail
Vel Veeter
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There’s a little live-blogging happening in this review as I work my way through the book. The book is very very good, oddly not nearly as depressingly sad as I thought it would be (though very depressingly sad), and much more complex, nuanced, intelligent and erudite than what I thought the book was going to be based on the description. Not to say that I didn’t think Toni Cade Bambara was capable of such a book, but I just didn’t realize that’s the book I was picking up.

The book takes places mo
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
(FROM JACKET)"Those Bones Are Not My Child" is a staggering achievement: the novel that Toni Cade Bambara worked on for twelve years until her death in 1995-a story that puts us at the center of the nightmare of the Atlanta child murders.

It was called "The City Too Busy To Hate", but two decades ago more than forty black children were murdered there with grim determination, their bodies found-in ditches, on riverbeds-strangled, beaten, and sexually assaulted. Bambara was living in Atlanta at th
Mar 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have been looking at this book on my shelf for some years. I love the work of Toni Cade Bambara, especially her previous novel, The Salt Eaters. Those Bones is not an easy read, but it is an extraordinary one. It is the story of one woman, one family, one city and indeed all of the USA. The story is about a spate of murders that occurred in Atlanta n the early 1980s. More than 40 black children were abducted, sexually abused, beaten and murdered. But the establishment deemed them runaways and ...more
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished
A necessary read but difficult to follow. This work parallels reality and lets us know the more things change, the more things stay the same. I've always wanted to know what follow through, if any, occurred with this case. From this novel, I know those families never stopped searching for answers and justice. ...more
Bernard Norcott-mahany
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
The book seemed a bit long, and the middle section seemed to drag a lot. The work was not edited when the author died, and one cannot think but that Bambara would have tightened up the work quite a bit. The opening section and the concluding sections, though, are quite compelling.
I wanted to like this book but it was painfully long and, somewhere around the halfway point, I began to resent its length and chastised myself for choosing to involve myself in something that brought so much angst: I hate quitting any book I pick up but there were points where this book nearly put me in a reading slump.

Every time I looked at it, I felt guilty because I knew I should be reading it but simply didn’t want to; it was too many pages and many of those pages had already proved to be
"'Not an emergency,' Kofi. Your brother is not an emergency. You got that? And you too, iss. Just remember that. You two better remember that."

#blame #UnderServed #OverPoliced #Black #Power #Helplessness

This is a humbling moment, and one of the most powerful moments in the beginning of the novel. Zala comes to terms with the fact that her son might be in danger. She finally allows herself to feel scared instead of mad. On top of that, she finally allows her family to talk her into calling the po
Sep 28, 2020 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I love the idea of this book, and the writing is often remarkable. It's disheartening to know how many of the concerns raised here, about the way the system treats Black families, for example, haven't changed much since the events of the book or since the book was written. Seeing what the family at the center of the book went through as they tried to get help finding their son was truly wrenching and it provides an important perspective on so many child endangerment stories.

But I've read 250 pag
Sheila Smith
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: waste-of-time
I really wanted to like this book and I was more than willing to put in the time to get through the hefty amount of pages. It's difficult to describe why I couldn't get through this book. The writing is very "poetic", which made it a bit difficult to understand exactly what was going on at a few points in the book. I was very interested in the subject matter of the book, but it was very long-winded and difficult to read. Very dense writing. Maybe I'll revisit it at some point, but I just couldn' ...more
Hilary Brown
This book should be interesting. Unfortunately, the weird pacing makes it incredibly difficult and tedious to read. Almost a slog. Bambara includes as many details about car trips and meals as she does about tragedies like the daycare explosion, which leads to a kind of boring presentation of events. Her pacing choices leave the reader without any clues as to which events are most important because she lends all events equal importance. Disappointing.
Feb 19, 2021 rated it it was ok
I appreciate the author's need to both witness and document the intensity of the time. Toni Cade Bambara treats a very serious moment in American history with the care and context it deserves. 5 stars on that front.

however. . .I have to admit that all in all, it's just a mishmash of stream of conscious musings with a half assed dollop of family drama to move the story along? Poorly edited and sadly poorly written!
Stephanie G. Lewis
2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge: a book published posthumously.

The story is hard. I was a freshman in college in Pittsburgh, PA. 1980 Olympics when the United States did not participate. Black children were targeted. Police were apathetic. And there was a group seeking what today we are calling reparations.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"—
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I have held on to this book for months planning to finish it. But I am giving up now. Tough content and too rambling to keep me focused. Wish the story were tighter and more easily read. I wanted to like/finish it.
May 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: pandemic-reads
This was a slow burn. Interesting and compelling but also really confusing. I'm still not sure if I understand what happened. ...more
Toni Morrison called this book the author's magnum opus. ...more
Jul 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I guess the rating would be closer to a 3 1/2, fwiw.

There's a lot that can go wrong with a book like this. Published posthumously, a book is in danger of either editing away the author's voice, or not editing enough; based on first hand research, a book is in danger of overloading on exposition in order to justify the research; based on a historical event from recent history, a book may have trouble condensing the wider drama onto an individual level, even operating at epic scale.

Those Bones are
Jun 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: smartie pantsez
Recommended to Joolie by: peta
I have read two books by Toni Cade Bambara, and she was a brilliant writer. So brilliant, that i think she is too smart for me! I love her language but sometimes it was hard to follow for me - more so in The Salt Eaters. She was definitely not fond of the linear and her writings soak up layers and shifting times and characters. In other words, you may need to keep on yr toes. This book is a fictionalized story of true events that happened in and around Atlanta during the late 70's and early 80's ...more
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Toni Cade Bambara, born Miltona Mirkin Cade (March 25, 1939 – December 9, 1995) was an African-American author, documentary film-maker, social activist and college professor.

Toni Cade Bambara was born in New York City to parents Walter and Helen (Henderson) Cade. She grew up in Harlem, Bedford Stuyvesant (Brooklyn), Queens and New Jersey. In 1970 she changed her name to include the name of a West

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