“Blues Ain’t No Mockingbird” by Toni Cade Bambara is a short story about the narrator and her family's life in the deep south. The family must deal with many changes that arise after two men with cameras invade their privacy to make a documentary. This story uses rich language and themes to help the reader imagine what life was truly like for the narrator and Cathy during this difficult time.
The short story is set in the deep south, in an African American home, during the twentieth century. It centers around an unnamed narrator and her cousin Cathy as they experience the invasion of a camera crew on their property. As the girls are outside playing with their two twin boy neighbors, their grandmother “Granny” is inside finishing some Rum Cakes, when two strange men with cameras approach. The narrator gives these men the names “smilin and camera man”. They come up and explain that they are filming for the ‘country’s food stamp program’ and would like to use Granny’s home for footage. However, she stoically refuses.
The approach of the camera men prompts Cathy to tell a story about a man who tried to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge, and how it attracted onlookers and a camera crew like the ones at the house. When the twins and the narrator become eager to hear the ending of the story, Granny’s countenance changes and it prompts Cathy to change the story to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This story makes a connection to the narrator who describes how Granny becomes frustrated with her surroundings every few years, and forces the family to move.
When the cameramen refuse to leave, Granny becomes upset. Just then Granddaddy Cain returns from the fields with a large chicken hawk, a hammer, and his hunting gear. Mumbling under her breath, Granny comments that the men are standing in her flower bed. The cameramen rush up to film Granddaddy, but he elegantly forces them away. The narrator describes him as being king-like. When the men refuse to leave, Grandaddy holds out his hand for the camera. Intimidated by his presence and his hammer, they hand him the camera. He removes the top off of the camera and their film is ruined.
Granddaddy Cain also points out that they are standing in the flower bed. He gives the camera back, the men pick up the pieces and they leave.
Cathy then says that one day, she will write a story about the day's events, and that the story will be “[a]bout the proper use of the hammer.”