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Submitted Literature

The Salt Eaters

By Toni Cade Bambara


An exploration into cultural expressions and treatments of mental illness.  Depressive psychosis, in this novel, is treated through traditional healing, invocation of and working through traumatic memory.  Issues of racial discrimination are thoroughly and emotively examined as impacting upon individual’s psychological and physical health.  Notions of self-care and self-tenderness are crucial in the steps towards recovery.

Key Themes:

  • Cultural Psychiatry
  • Psychosis
  • Revealing Reads

Significant Quotes / Pages

3 – “ ‘Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?’

Velma Henry turned stiffly on the stool, the gown ties tight across her back, the knots hard.  So taut for so long, she could not swivel.  Neck, back, hip joint dry, stiff.  Face frozen.  She could not glower, suck her teeth, roll her eyes, do any of the Velma-things by way of answering Minnie Ransom, who sat before her humming lazily up and down the scales, making a big to-do of draping her silky shawl, handling it as though it were a cape she’d swirl any minute over Velma’s head in a wipe-out veronica, or as though it were a bath towel she was drying her back with in the privacy of her bathroom.

Minnie Ransom herself, the fabled healer of the district”

5 - “She tried to withdraw as she been doing for weeks and weeks.  Withdraw the self to a safe place where husband, lover, teacher, workers, no one could follow, probe.  Withdraw her self and prop up a borderguard to negotiate with would-be intruders.  She’d been a borderguard all her childhood, so she knew something about it.   She was the one sent to the front door to stand off the landlord, the insurance man, the greengrocer, the fishpeddler, to ensure Mama Mae one more bit of peace.”

Reference: Toni Cade, Bambara. 1980. The Salt Eaters. London: The Women's Press, 1987


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Friday 20th March 2009