Gorilla, My Love

Gorilla, My Love Character List

Miss Hazel

The narrator of "My Man Bovanne." A kindly, middle-aged woman who is lonely and estranged from her adult children. Although she drinks and sleeps around, she has a compassionate and generous spirit.


A middle-aged, blind mechanic who is popular in the narrator’s neighborhood amongst the children, but who is mostly ignored by the adults. From "My Man Bovanne."

Joe Lee

A son of the narrator in "My Man Bovanne."


The narrator's youngest son in "My Man Bovanne."


The narrator's only daughter in "My Man Bovanne." Although they were close when Elo was a child, they have grown apart over the years.


The narrator of “Raymond’s Run.” She is a young girl who cares for her mentally disabled older brother, Raymond, when she is not running track. Her real name is Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker.


Squeaky’s mentally disabled older brother in "Raymond's Run."

Cynthia Procter

In "Raymond's Run," an intelligent girl at Squeaky’s school who likes to pretend that she doesn’t study.


In "Raymond's Run," Squeaky's rival at school and on the track team.

Mary Louise Williams

In "Raymond's Run," a friend of Gretchen’s who recently moved to Harlem from Baltimore. Squeaky befriended her when she first arrived, but they have since become enemies.

Hazel ("Gorilla, My Love")

The young girl who narrates "Gorilla, My Love." Though she sometimes behaves badly, she has a fierce sense of integrity. Note: There are several secondary characters in the collection who are also named Hazel, but they are not the same character.

Hunca Bubba

Hazel's uncle in "Gorilla, My Love." He regrets parts of his past and now asks everyone to call him by his full name, Jefferson Winston Vale, because he believes it signifies that he has turned over a new leaf. He plans to soon marry his girlfriend.

Baby Jason

Hazel's younger brother in "Gorilla, My Love." The narrator of "Maggie of the Green Bottles" also has a younger brother named Baby Jason.

Big Brood

Hazel's older brother in "Gorilla, My Love." Despite the fact that he is older and bigger, he is not as bold as Hazel is.

Granddaddy Vale

Hazel's grandfather and Hunca Bubba's father in "Gorilla, My Love."

The narrator of "The Hammer Man"

A feisty, antagonistic young girl who enjoys picking fights with boys.


The titular character in "The Hammer Man." He is a 'crazy' boy at the narrator's school. The story's title is a reference to the hammer he supposedly keeps in his pants. Although he fights with the narrator and seems to have a mean side, he is also usually unaware of his surroundings. It is possible that he has a mental handicap.

Miss Rose

In "The Hammer Man," a woman in the narrator’s building who acts as her godmother.

Mississippi Ham Rider

The eponymous character in "Mississippi Ham Rider." A blues musician who recorded a 'race record' in the 1920s, but has spent most of his life since as an unemployed alcoholic.

Isabele Rider

In "Mississippi Ham Rider," Ham Rider’s daughter. She is a sensible woman who negotiates Ham’s pay for traveling north to sing.

Inez Williams

The narrator of "Mississippi Ham Rider." She is an educated freelance writer who works for the company that wants to reissue Ham's music. She travels to the South to get his permission and interview him for the album notes.

Mama Teddy

In "Mississippi Ham Rider," the matronly owner of Mama Teddy's, a traditional Southern diner.

Melanie Rider

In "Mississippi Ham Rider," a young relative of Ham Rider who introduces Inez to the family.

Neil McLoughlin

In "Mississippi Ham Rider," a white colleague who travels to the South with Inez to interview Mississippi Ham Rider.


A very young, neglected child who has to spend her birthday alone in "Happy Birthday."

Granddaddy Larkins

In "Happy Birthday," Ollie's guardian and the only adult at her house.


In "Happy Birthday," one of Ollie's friends, and a compulsive liar.


In "Playin with Punjab," a young man who borrows from the loan shark Punjab, who murders him when he does not repay his loan on time.


In "Playin with Punjab," a charismatic but ruthless loan shark. He develops a crush on Miss Ruby, a social worker, and makes an unsuccessful attempt to become the community representative on the poverty council.

Miss Ruby

In "Playin with Punjab," a white social worker from Brooklyn. She seems focused primarily on political activism, although she also helps Violet prepare to become a secretary.


The narrator of "Playin with Punjab." She is an observant young woman who wants to train as a secretary.

Betty Butler

A social worker who narrates "Talkin Bout Sonny," and who seems to be in a relationship with Delauney.


The bartender in "Talkin Bout Sonny."


In "Talkin Bout Sonny," a disturbed bar patron who is deeply affected when he hears the story of the murderer Sonny. He seems to be in a relationship with Betty, the narrator.


Delauney's daughter in "Talkin Bout Sonny."


The young, rebellious narrator of "The Lesson." She and six of her friends go to F.A.O. Schwarz with Miss Moore, where they learn about income inequality.

Miss Moore

In "The Lesson," a college-educated woman who moves to Harlem and takes the neighborhood children on educational excursions, many of which have a political subtext. She dresses very formally and makes some of the adults uncomfortable, but they feel obliged to send their children with her.


Sylvia's cousin and close friend in "The Lesson." Inez also has a friend named Sugar in "The Johnson Girls."

Flyboy, Junebug, Rosie Giraffe, and Big Butt

Four of Sylvia's friends who accompany Miss Moore, Sylvia, and Sugar on the trip to F.A.O. Schwarz.


One of the narrator's friends in "The Lesson." She is wealthier than the other children in the story.


The protagonist of "The Survivor." She is nine months pregnant when the story begins, and has recently left her abusive husband after 10 years of marriage. She is a film actress.

Grandmother Candy

In "The Survivor," Jewel's grandmother, whom she also calls Miss Candy. She lived on a farm for most of her life, and had her own trouble with men, surviving two tumultuous marriages.


Jewel’s director and violently abusive husband in “The Survivor.” They were together for 10 years before Jewel left him, and there is some implication that he might have recently died in a car crash.


In "The Survivor," Jewel’s overbearing niece, who greatly admires her because of her acting success. Cathy is also the name of the narrator's cousin in "Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird." This Cathy is a child who loves storytelling.


The 15-year-old narrator of "Sweet Town." She has a whimsical and expressive way of describing the world.


In "Sweet Town," Kit's adventurous boyfriend.


In "Sweet Town," a friend of B.J. and Kit. He and B.J. run away together at the end of the story, leaving Kit behind.

The narrator of "Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird"

A young girl who lives with her grandmother in the rural South, along with her cousin, Cathy.


The narrator’s grandmother in “Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird.” She adopted the narrator and the narrator’s third cousin, Cathy. She frequently gets frustrated with her surroundings, and has the family move every few years.

Granddaddy Cain

The narrator's dignified grandfather in "Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird."

Terry and Tyrone

The twin boys who live next door to the narrator in “Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird.”

The narrator of "Basement"

A young girl who lives with her mother, but spends a lot of time with her neighbor, Patsy.


The narrator's best friend and neighbor in "Basement." Although the girls have fun together, the narrator is frustrated with Patsy's pathological lying and inappropriate sexual behavior.

Patsy Mother

Patsy's alcoholic, temperamental mother in "Basement."

Patsy Aunt

Patsy's Aunt in "Basement." She is more even-tempered than, and tries to control, Patsy Mother.

The narrator of "Maggie of the Green Bottles"

A young girl who has a close relationship with her great-grandmother Maggie. Maggie is an alcoholic, but the narrator believes her empty green bottles have a mystic power.


The narrator's alcoholic great-grandmother in "Maggie of the Green Bottles." She practices many methods of fortune-telling, and cares deeply for the narrator, although she is cruel to the narrator's father and the family dog. She lives with the narrator's family.

The narrator of "The Johnson Girls"

A young college student who lives with and looks up to her glamorous older cousin, Inez.

Great Ma Drew

In "The Johnson Girls," Great Ma Drew is Inez and the narrator's grandmother. They both lived with her when they were younger.


The narrator's fawning suitor in "The Johnson Girls."


In "The Johnson Girls," Inez's ex-boyfriend. He broke up with her and moved to Nashville. Inez plans to travel there and win him back.


One of Inez's friends in "The Johnson Girls."


The theatre attendant who scolds the children during the film in "Gorilla, My Love."

Mr. Pearson

The teacher who organizes the May Day race in "Raymond's Run," and suggests Squeaky lose the race to give Gretchen some attention.


Manny's brother in "The Hammer Man," with whom the narrator's father gets into an altercation over Manny's aggression.

the policemen ("The Hammer Man")

The policemen in "The Hammer Man" provoke and then arrest Manny for playing basketball.

the cameramen

The film crew who attempts to secretly film the family in "Blues Ain't No Mocking Bird."