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Brown Girl, Brownstones

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  2,150 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
Set in Brooklyn during the Depression and World War II, "Brown Girl, Brownstones" is the enduring story of a most extraordinary young woman. Selina Boyce, the daughter of Barbadian immigrants, is caught between the struggles of her hard-working, ambitious mother, who wants to "buy house" and educate her daughters, and her father, who longs to return to the land in Barbados ...more
Published January 1st 1996 by Feminist Press (first published 1959)
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Jul 30, 2016 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars rounded up
This is Marshall’s first novel and is semi-autobiographical; set in New York (Brooklyn) and within the Barbadian community, struggling to survive and makes its way. The brownstones of the title are the houses which members of the community aspire to owning. It is a coming of age novel and revolves around Selina Boyce and her mother Silla; two wonderfully created characters who are the most memorable parts of the novel.
Silla has very clear aims for her daughters and for her o
Nov 28, 2014 Mmars rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometime in the 80s I became aware of Paule Marshall and picked up her books whenever I ran across them. Until now, they have set on the shelf unread. I decided to read the earliest of those works, Brown Girl, Brownstones, published in 1959.

Marshall follows the “write what you know” instruction in this book. Like Selina, the protagonist, Marshall was American born to recent Barbadian immigrants who grew up in Brooklyn’s brownstones. She would have been close in age to Selina during the 40s and i
Bridgit Brown
Mar 19, 2010 Bridgit Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book many, many years ago - back in Junior High School as a matter of fact. I believe it was the first book that I had ever read by a black woman writer; and Selina's story sounded very familiar to me - despite the fact that my parents had come up to the north from the south. It's definitely the classic coming of age story and quite the one that I needed to hear about back then. I think that after I read this book, I had a completely different approach to writing and story-telling: o ...more
Nov 23, 2010 V. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a sucker for female coming of age novels. This is probably because I was not a female when I came of age. This is Virginia Woolf with slightly less stylistic prowess and a plot worth fighting for and a lead who, if asked, you would contemplate drowning yourself for. There's something about the wavering would-be artist realizing that she needs to be a person first and foremost that, to my mind, is something to root for.
May 01, 2012 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a bit hard for me to get into at first (I didn't know what to expect exactly, and the story was a little slow for me as a result of that in the beginning), but once it started drawing me in, there was no putting it down. I thought it was incredibly written and moving - everything from the language, to the characters, to their quotidian experiences leapt off the page for me and took on greater meaning. I thought it was fascinating to get a glimpse of the under-explored immigrant exp ...more
Jul 10, 2013 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book blew me away, and it came at the perfect time for me. After the Trayvon Martin verdict, I found myself speechless about issues of race. While friends posted articles and insightful quotes about the topic, I just could not find the words. This book gave me the words to explain the problem of race in our country.

But having said all that, this is not a book about "issues." It's a story, and a beautifully rendered one at that. At its heart, it is a coming-of-age narrative of a teenage girl
Jun 24, 2014 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brooklyn
Beautifully written but totally accessible and easy to read. Set in Brooklyn during WW2. I enjoyed reading about Brownstone living in that era, and it was cool to read someone else describe how magical Prospect Park is to a child. It was published in 1959, but doesn't feel dated at all.
I had a problem relating to the protagonist, because I felt so much sympathy for her mother, who I think is supposed to be a more ambiguous figure than I found her to be. Yeah, she kinda' does something backhande
Sidik Fofana
Jun 13, 2010 Sidik Fofana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Six Word Review: Unsung hero of the black canon.
Nov 24, 2011 Torzilla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this for my African Lit class. Hated the beginning, due to the barrage of names and POV swaps. I found it to be extremely jarring and was pissed that I had to read a book like this. I think I actually fell asleep on the train ride home at one point, while trying to read the start, heh.

Then something happened, and all of a sudden the story, its characters, and everything else just... clicked. I was glued to the pages, albeit, there were moments where the story dragged. At least it was not of
Mar 30, 2011 Mawgojzeta rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I think I loved this book in another reality. I mean that. I think I really loved it. The time period and culture presented were great. The characters were interesting. The writing style was wonderful; certainly poetic. There were a dozen times or better I read a paragraph and thought, "I should write this down". Despite this, I struggled. As I forced my way through each page - yes, eventually it felt like an assignment - I kept questioning myself on WHY this was not satisfying me. I think I fig ...more
Mary Jo
Mar 06, 2013 Mary Jo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! This is a great book. I have had it for a while and just got around to reading it. The story has a lot to recommend it. Barbardian immigrants in New York. Family relationships, specifically mother/daughter. Told from the point of view of a female of color written in 1959, pre-cursor to Alice Walker, etc. Also, the style of writing is wonderful. Lyrical, descriptive, vernacular. I enjoyed this book.
The book was too dense. I only got a few pages in to it and realized that it wasn't for me though I can see the value, especially reading the summary that the author Paule Marshall is really writing about her coming-of-age story through the Depression and WWII living in Brooklyn and the relationship between African American and West Indians.
Sep 10, 2010 Agnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful book. I could not put it down. All the characters were so relatable and interesting, it was not just about Selina and her coming of age. It was far deeper!
Feb 21, 2009 Abby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic female coming-of-age story. All the tension between mothers and daughters and girls with their girl friends is there, along with rich portrayals of Barbados American immigrant life.
Aug 06, 2008 Joyce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another take A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, set during the Second World War not the first, Bedford-Stuyvesant, not Williamsburg. Haunting.
Nyasha Junior
Dec 30, 2014 Nyasha Junior rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
phenomenal girl coming of age novel #sixwordreview
Oct 19, 2007 Anjoli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love it. It's Paula Marshall--nuff said. For those who don't know, she's in the same category as the can't-go-wrong-in-my-book Danticat.
Jan 04, 2013 Alana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
thought provoking..
Jan 02, 2016 Pat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Brown Girl, Brownstones” by Paule Marshall was first published in 1959. It is the coming of age story of Selina, the first generation American daughter of Silla and Deighton Boyce, immigrants from Barbados, Bajans. The novel takes her from the age of ten in 1939 into the fifties. Not only does the book detail her sexual and emotional coming of age with refreshing honesty, but it does so within the context of the struggles of new immigrants to find a place for themselves in racially conflicted A ...more
Feb 20, 2017 Thikra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This novel was suggested by the Feminist Press for black history month and after reading it, I wish I had come across it sooner. Marshall's novel is a beautiful rendition of the nuances of the immigrant struggle within the Barbadian community opening under the backdrop of World War II and white flight from urban centers. Marshall tells the story of a young Selina, who is born to parents from Barbados and like Betty Smith's, Francine Nolan of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Selina idolizes her father de ...more
Chantal Johnson
Jun 24, 2015 Chantal Johnson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2016
So I changed my rating to 5 stars after reading the book's afterword. It made me love and appreciate it that much more and gave me a much deeper understanding of its contents.

I was so sad to say goodbye to Selina and her world. This is a contender for one of those classics you would read in high school, and could pull so much analysis for your essays and whatnot. Brown Girl, Brownstones is a coming of age novel surrounding Selina Boyce, a first generation child of Barbadian immigrants. The sett
Leslie Wolfhard
Nov 22, 2008 Leslie Wolfhard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teenagers/young adults
Recommended to Leslie by: African-American Lit Professor
I probably wouldn't have ever heard of Brown Girl, Brownstones if it hadn't been assigned for the African American Literature by Women course I'm taking this semester. However, it has a deserved place among novels about the immigrant experience and coming of age.

Brown Girl, Brownstones follows Selina Boyce from girlhood into college. In this time, Selina struggles over her allegiance to her father, Deighton, who romantically tries on careers in which he has no realistic future, and her mother,
3 1/2 stars.

This book, like The Kite Runner before it, is one I had to read for school. Of course I didn't think much of it. I thought I would be bored with the book. Instead, I want to offer grand praise to Paule Marshall, for I was immediately sucked into this world and the language of her writing. Under her pen Paule has written some of the most beautiful sentences, and I am not one who generally likes too much description. There is a part where one of the characters says, "You have to use yo
Kerenha Carter
Brown Girl, Brownstones is a book I read for my form 6 Literature course. It was, without parallel, the best book I have ever read. Marshall is a poetic, yet prosaic writer. She expresses her sentiments in a way that is both realistic and beautiful. Marshall addresses the themes of love, family relationships, the American dream and identity from the perspective of a Barbadian family who has moved to America in search of a better life. This book is a MUST READ. Two pieces of advice for reading th ...more
Ralowe Ampu
Nov 06, 2014 Ralowe Ampu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
had to ditch all my structuralist gripes with this one as marshall's storytelling hangs together so loose and free, and fraught with complexity that defies any easy cosmology. the *medicine for melancholy* part brought on some relief as i spose my mind hungers for patrilineal reason, thank you. if *the chosen place, the timeless people* grips with urgency this novel shrugs luxurious in nonplusment. my first day at the american studies association meeting my confirmed doppelganger nijah cunningha ...more
Aug 02, 2011 Jeane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book contains an incredibly in depth an incredible protagonist. Selina's story from her childhood with a lazy yet dreamer of a father and a strong yet bitter mother molded her into a strong independent willful woman. At a time in American history where women were just barely getting the recognition they deserved, and to be black and come from a poor family Selina was able to master all of her barriers. With different characters influencing her life, such as the pseudo prostitute who lived h ...more
Jul 10, 2016 Angie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Major Field Prep: 51/133
Like earlier texts by African American women, like Fauset's Plum Bun, Marshall's novel follows the adolescence and coming of age of a young black girl living in Brooklyn. Unlike the earlier novels, Marshall's protagonist Selina is the daughter of West Indian immigrants from Barbados. Her experience documents a different racialization and racial recognition. Claude McKay is an obvious predecessor as a writers from the Caribbean who found a distinct authorial voice in black
Apr 04, 2013 Sihle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting bildungsroman that explores the conflict of a dual-cultured young girl and her struggle for identity. Selina's parents are from Barbados but they and her older sister live in the Brownstones of America. Her father adores Barbados and wants to go back to his home country one day; however, her mother has totally different views and believes that the central focus should be to 'make it' in America. This clash in opinions leads to a series of events that threaten to break the family ...more
Sep 23, 2011 Carla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just finished reading this book for my high school English Literature class. Being a Barbadian, I thoroughly enjoyed the local dialect that the characters used. I think it was the first time ever that I have seen Barbadian slang and dialect in an internationally published novel!

Overall, I have enjoyed this book. The descriptions of everything and everyone were vivid and the story on a whole was enjoyable. I recognized a few elements of home life in the Boyce family that are strong in Barbados
Feb 01, 2016 Kristi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were times that I absolutely loved this book, the best of those times being when it tugged at my heart strings or helped me to better understand racism through the eyes of people bearing its heavy weight. Other times, it read very slow to me and felt like I would never finish. One of my favorite aspects of the book was watching Selina's character development from beginning to end. Some of the other characters, such as Ina, seemed too underdeveloped. For a coming of age story, Brown Girl, B ...more
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bildungsroman or incident? 1 14 Feb 16, 2009 01:43PM  
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Paule Marshall was born Valenza Pauline Burke in Brooklyn to Barbadian parents and educated at Brooklyn College (1953) and Hunter College (1955).

Marshall has taught at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of California, Berkeley, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and Yale University before holding the Helen Gould Sheppard Chair of Literature and Culture at New York University. In 1993 she re
More about Paule Marshall...

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