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Paule Marshall Biography

(1929– ), Brown Girl, Brownstones, South Clap Hands and Sing

black novel american experience

American writer, born in New York to Barbadian immigrant parents, educated at Brooklyn College. Her first novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959), was followed by South Clap Hands and Sing (1961), a collection of novellas. These early works display the commitment and maturity that characterize all her writings, as she examines from various perspectives the central issues of race, class, and gender. Her books, underwritten by her conviction that women embody the power principle as easily as men, are the forerunners of a movement of black and feminist writing that gained prominence a decade later. The Chosen Place, the Timeless People (1969) examines in depth her major philosophical and political preoccupations: colonialism and neocolonialism, the crippling effects of economic imperialism, and the black experience of deracination. Her third novel, Praisesong for the Widow (1983), concerns the perspective of one woman, Avatara Johnson, a member of the new black bourgeoisie; it presents through her eyes the roots and branches of the black experience in Africa and the New World, and stresses the reclamation of a heritage alive in oral lore and memory. Her collection Merle and Other Novellas (1983) includes a series of semi-fictional texts that reveal the course of her development, the depth of her perception, and the considerable though underrated impact of her ideas on her younger contemporaries. Daughter (1991), Marshall's long-awaited novel, tells the story of a young woman who attempts to come to terms with her American present, her father's Caribbean heritage, and her African-American mother's notions of justice and redemption. The novel spans several decades and is set both in the USA and in an imaginary but recognizable Caribbean island. Marshall returns to the ambitious sweep of her early works, combining political analysis of the post-colonial world with her interest in characterization and feminist issues.

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