The narrator explains that she writes “straight-up fiction” because her family and friends would be offended if she wrote autobiographically, believing the characters to be based on themselves. Further, she “lie[s] a lot anyway,” so fiction is more appropriate for her (n.p.).
In the Preface to Gorilla, My Love, Toni Cade Bambara responds to the confusion that some readers have over whether to consider her fiction autobiographical. The stories are heavily informed by Bambara’s experiences growing up in Harlem, and seem to use overlapping characters, suggesting that she is drawing the experience from her real life.
Nevertheless, she insists that her primary motivation is creation, not documentation. The preface does imply that many of the stories in this collection are based on real people or incidents, but states definitively that the characters are not exact ciphers. Bambara's mention of upset relatives is notably comic in tone, suggesting that her real reason for avoiding autobiography is not self-protection, but her creative instinct, her inherent desire to "lie a lot."
Although Gorilla, My Love addresses real social problems, Bambara reminds us from the beginning to read the book not only as a commentary on African-American urban life, but also as a creative literary work.