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Brown Girl, Brownstones

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  1,555 ratings  ·  69 reviews
“Remarkable for its courage, its color and its natural control.”—The New Yorker

“Unforgettable...written with pride and anger, with rebellion and tears.”—The Herald Tribune

This beloved coming-of-age story set in Brooklyn during the Depression and World War II follows the life of Selina Boyce, a daughter of Barbadians immigrants. Her mother craves the American Dream while he
Paperback, 324 pages
Published July 1st 2006 by The Feminist Press at CUNY (first published 1959)
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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
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
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.
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
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
Tori [Bottles of Summer]
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
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
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.
Ralowe Ampu
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
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.
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!
Another take A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, set during the Second World War not the first, Bedford-Stuyvesant, not Williamsburg. Haunting.
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.
Interesting to read about Barbadians in New York during that period, as this was a combination I knew little about although it has been on my list of things to read being curious to compare and contrast the native born Afro American to the migrated Afro American experiences in that timeframe.
I was not disappointed at all and am now starting to research other novels by this author. I enjoyed her potrayal of the main character and the dynamics with her parents. She captured the youthful single mi
Sidik Fofana
Six Word Review: Unsung hero of the black canon.
Leslie Wolfhard
Nov 22, 2008 Leslie Wolfhard rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
I enjoyed reading this book. I was first given an excerpt of chapter 1 in class and knew that I had to get my hands on it. I loved it. There were times where I found myself speaking to the characters as if I really knew them. There were a few parts that I found to be a bit slow but it wasn't a waste of text.
This is a fantastic book that seemed get better the more I read. It's characters are beautifully written and the story wonderfully told. I smiled and cringed and felt for the girl and her mother as they struggled alone and with one another. It's the kind of treasure that will echo within me for quite awhile.
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
Christy Foust
I read this as part of an African American literature class I took. This book is really moving. Paule Marshall is a great story teller.
Aug 19, 2014 Lizzie marked it as to-read
SERIOUSLY why have I never looked for all these multicultural NYC coming of age historical fiction girls' novels before!!!
Gianna Mosser
This book helped spark my real love for African-American feminist fiction. The kitchen is such a place of magic, where female speech, obligation, offering, resistance, and respect all find a home.
Debbie Zapata
This is a wonderful book. The writing is beautiful and the story is incredible. READ IT!!
I had a little difficulty getting into this book, which is a coming-of-age story of a Caribbean-American girl growing up in Brooklyn (Bed-Stuy) in the 1950s, but when I did I loved it. There are a number of completely riveting scenes, including one when the father, a frustrating dreamer, blows $900 on a 5th Avenue shopping spree. And that he does pains his wife, who the action was directed like an arrow at, as well as himself. The character work in this section, and others, is really remarkable.
Took me a little while to begin enjoying this book - as the dialect takes some getting used to. First book I've read by Marshall. But then found it beautifully written and conceived. Life in Bklyn, in an immigrant community of families from Barbados, during the Depression. Family relationships explored, life within the larger community, fitting in, or not. So similar to other immigrant experiences, but also distinctive. Characters well drawn and memorable.
May 03, 2008 Constantine added it
Recommends it for: Anyone who is interested in the West Indian Diaspora
As a person of Jamerican parentage (Father-Jamaican; Mother American), I see the cultural differences between African Americans and West Indians. The West Indians have a strong work ethic in order to gain the American Dream. Deighton, who is the father was a wastrel who believed in Father Divine. Father Divine exploited the poor by promising them pie-in-the sky. Finally, Selina was rebellious against her West Indian Heritage.


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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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