Penn State

Paula M. Smith - associate librarian, Penn State Abington

Book Title: Brown Girl, Brownstones

Author: Paule Marshall

Book Description:

Brown Girl, Brownstones was the first book I read that reflected my cultural duality. Growing up during a time when books by African American authors were published infrequently and typically related the “southern experience,” Paule Marshall provided a welcomed refuge from my search for identity. In the soft cadence of the voices of Bajan men and women, this author provided a fictional depiction of the struggle faced by many immigrants to embrace the host culture and retain one’s cultural identity. While reading this book I relived the smell of my grandmother’s cooking, the sight of sunlight filtering through the stained glass in the parlor, and the sound of that Barbadian lilt that was so familiar to my childhood. It would be many years before I would visit Barbados and come to understand the complexity of leaving home for unfamiliar but promising prospects in a different country. Yet it was through Paule Marshall that I first received context for understanding my past and learning to look forward to my future. Coming of age in the sixties as a second generation American woman with deep roots in the Caribbean, the discovery of Brown Girl, Brownstones was a rare and wonderful find.


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