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It took Toni Cade Bambara 12 years to research and write most of what would be her last novel, Those Bones Are Not My Child. The 1999 novel was published posthumously, after the author’s death in 1995, with Toni Morrison editing the work to completion and dubbing it Bambara’s “magnum opus.” The epic mystery novel takes place in 1980s Atlanta, where more than 40 Black children have been strangled, sexually assaulted, and beaten to death. The story zooms in on one character in particular: Marzala (Zala) Spencer, a single mother struggling to make ends meet, who wakes to find her teenage son Sonny has disappeared. Zala later realizes that Sonny may be one of a larger group of missing children. As she grows frustrated with the apathetic attitudes of those investigating her son’s disappearance, Zala reconnects with her estranged husband Nathaniel (Spence) Spencer, a Vietnam veteran, to seek out the truth for herself. Based on a true mass murder, Bambara’s sophisticated plot has been lauded for its depiction of structural racism and classism within the scope of the mystery genre. —Armani Syed

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