Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

What Does It Mean To Be Well? 'The Salt Eaters', Wholeness & Toni Cade Bambara's Legacy

Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?”

From that first opening sentence alone, I knew that I was reading The Salt Eaters – the critically-acclaimed, debut novel from the Black Feminist icon, Toni Cade Bambara – at the right time in my life.

Set in the American South in the 70s, The Salt Eaters revolves around Velma, an experienced and formidable political activist who finds herself at the point of breakdown, disillusioned with the struggle and weary of her life and the world at large. The novel is an exquisite, perspective-bending, award-winning classic work of Black American fiction, and alongside Velma and Minnie – a revered spiritual healer who is tasked with bringing Velma back from the brink – we meet a community of people: a respected doctor in charge of the infirmary where Velma is, Velma’s husband and fellow activists, a pregnant teenage couple, a bus driver mourning his own losses, and a spirit called Old Wife who is assisting Minnie in Velma’s healing.