Saturday, April 29, 2006

"Brown Girl, Brownstones"

Professor Lee D. Baker of Duke University checked in with a suggestion for our series on fiction that illuminates the problem of structural racism:
My off the cuff recommendation would be: Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall.
From the publisher:
Now including a new foreword by the prolific Haitian author Edwidge Danticat, Brown Girl, Brownstones, is the work of one of America’s finest contemporary black women writers. Set in Brooklyn during the Depression and World War II, it chronicles the efforts of Barbadian immigrants to surmount poverty and racism and to make their new country home. Selina Boyce, the novel’s memorable heroine, is conflicted by the opposing aspirations of her parents: her hardworking, ambitious mother longs to buy a brownstone row house while her easy-going father prefers to dream of effortless success and his native island’s lushness. Eventually, in this coming-of-age story, Selina must forge her own identity, sexuality and sense of values in her new country and reconcile group tradition with individual potential.
Paule Marshall has written five novels--Daughters; Praisesong for the Widow; The Chosen Place, The Timeless People; Brown Girl, Brownstones; and most recently The Fisher King--and has published two collections of short fiction, Soul Clap Hands and Sing and Reena and Other Stories. She is a MacArthur Fellow and past winner of the Dos Passos Prize for Literature. In 1994 she was designated a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library. Professor Marshall holds the Helen Gould Sheppard Chair of Literature and Culture in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University.

Lee D. Baker is Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Duke University. His publications include Life In America: Identity and Everyday Experience, ed. (2003) and From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954 (1998).

For the initial post in this series, which includes Andrew Grant-Thomas' working definition of structural racism, click here. Michael Dawson of the University of Chicago offered recommendations here and here, and Michael Collins of Texas A & M suggested a couple of novels and an autobiography here. For recommendations from New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis, click here.

Thanks to Lee for the recommendation.

--Marshal Zeringue