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Brown Girl, Bronstones, P. Marshall

Like many immigrant and/or minority writers, Paule Marshall’s first novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones, is semi-autobiographical. However, it is also like many works of this breed of writer because it details its heroine’s, Selina Boyce, coming-of-age as she reclaims her cultural and spiritual voice. It is also representative of the human condition, in that the experiences Marshall shares of her existence embody warmth, humor and tragedy. The story we are told of Selina, an adolescent black girl growing up in a New York West Indian community, demonstrates the issues and challenges that confront the American-born daughter of Caribbean parents. One of these is the gender dynamics within the black community. Another is being black in a predominantly white sociopolitical structure. A third is the dynamics between American-born children and their native-born immigrant parents, ground that Amy Tan would later cover so well in The Joy Luck Club. We see two of these issues illuminated when Selina discusses the treatment of the Barbadian women on their way to work. We see in this example the racism and ostracism immigrants and blacks are generally treated to, but also how Selina might wish to have more of a developed sense of self than the women whose only concern is money for house “Sometimes the white children on their way to school laughed at their blackness and shouted “nigger,” but the Barbadian women sucked their teeth, dismissing them. Their only though was of the ‘few raw-mout’ pennies’ at the end of the day which would eventually ‘buy house’” (Marshall 11).

By returning to her homeland, Selina is able to resolve many of these issues by reclaiming her heritage, culture and spirit. It is also through this process and journey she is able to define who she by taking a firm assessment of her parents and how she can be like them and how she never will. The major theme i


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Brown Girl, Bronstones, P. Marshall. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:52, December 06, 2021, from