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The Wedding

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  3,485 Ratings  ·  162 Reviews
An Oprah Winfrey Presents Mini-Series on ABC Network Television Starring Halle Berry

In her last novel, Dorothy West, an iconic member of the Harlem Renaissance, offers an intimate glimpse into African American middle class. Set on bucolic Martha's Vineyard in the 1950s,The Weddingtells the story of life in the Oval, a proud, insular community made up of the best and bright
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 1st 1996 by Anchor (first published January 1st 1995)
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The Color Purple by Alice WalkerTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonKindred by Octavia E. ButlerBeloved by Toni MorrisonRoots by Alex Haley
Best Black Historical Fiction
34th out of 213 books — 189 voters
The Color Purple by Alice WalkerTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm XBeloved by Toni MorrisonInvisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Best African American Books
134th out of 625 books — 805 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 04, 2010 Ari rated it really liked it
This book covers so many topics in so few pages, but it never seems rushed, tedious or the same old same old. This story is absolutely timeless. Shelby (the main character who is getting ready to marry a white jazz musician) could easily pass as white, her whole family is light and they have some white blood in them somewhere. The issue of colorism is brought up again and again, and this is still an issue today. The idea that "if you're light, you're alright." It also looks at issues of class an ...more
Christine Baese
Mar 28, 2015 Christine Baese rated it really liked it
Something about the structure of the book didn't flow well for me until about half way through it. Once my mind was engaged, it was a quick read to the end. The book is comprised of a series of histories of the protagonist's relatives that culminate with her own identity struggle on the eve of her marriage. I appreciated the family histories more than the book's finish which seemed to deliver a brutal, fatalistic message. The sections of the lineage of the family more than made up for it, provid ...more
Feb 10, 2011 Jean rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is one of the finest novels I have read in years! West's writing is just heaven to read. She sensual and articulate in her prose. . . almost poetic. The opening page of this novel has inscribed upon it 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude; it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bear all things, believes all things, hopes all thin ...more
a. chigozie
Loved this book! I liked that the book read like a movie thanks to the narrative voice. It covered so many issues all linked to racism but addresses on a human level, exploring the ways in which it shapes people's lives in good and bad ways. The personal histories of everyone in their family, from generations extending into slavery enriched the narrative. Can't say I loved ending but everything leading up to the ending was beautifully written. I'd actually like to see this as a film, not produce ...more
Joy H.
Added 5/24/16. (first published January 1st 1995)
I read this book a while ago. I remember that, while the theme is an interesting and worthy one, I didn't find the reading very compelling. I wish I had written a review at the time, but I probably wasn't yet a member of Goodreads when I read this book.

A summary which I found online is below:
"Shelby, an upper-middle class Afro American, is about to marry a white jazz musician from New York, causing shock waves amo
Susan Emmet
Oct 31, 2014 Susan Emmet rated it really liked it
While trolling the shelves at our library, I found The Wedding sitting on its side looking at me. I picked it up, saw it hadn't been taken out since 1999, and signed it out in 2014. Glad I did.
I knew of West from reading Zora Neal Hurston and studying the Harlem Renaissance in high school and college.
This is a fine book, the first West had written in two score years.
It's about a lineage of enslaved and free blacks and a host of blue-veined white people, too. From the days of the Preacher and Ebo
Colette Byfield
May 20, 2016 Colette Byfield rated it it was ok
The generation gap is usually easy to bridge in literature because you are immersed in another time and place. However, "The Wedding" with its obsessive emphasis on color lines and skin tones drove me far outside the insular circular of "The Oval" as not even an observer, but an uninvited guest.

The Wedding, set in 1953, examines the lives of upper class Black people living idyllically on Martha's Vineyard. Skin color is the protective barrier that insulates a neighborhood of well to do Negroes f
My rating distribution for book reviews in general:

Content: 0-1 star
Delivery: 0-1 star
Relevance: 0-1 star
Impact: 0-1 star
Bonus (if warranted by additional components of the book that enhanced my experience with the read): 0-1 star

Why I read this book:
This is the book of the month for my book club. Also, fiction really isn't my genre of choice, but I wanted to step outside my comfort zone. Finally, I'd heard good things about Dorothy West's writings, so I decided to give it a shot.

Content: 1/1
May 12, 2011 Clytee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for my bookclub. It's about black middle class in the 1950's in the east, a world I pretty much know nothing about. It was interesting, but not fantastic. There was one crude character, Lute, that I hated and almost quit the book over. I had a hard time keeping the characters straight. There were a lot of good phrases and sentences.

Quotes I liked: (p. 93) "And to win she will have to fight back without bitterness, not replacing her hurt with hate but letting that hurt enrich her expe
Feb 06, 2013 BookSweetie rated it really liked it

Dorothy West's life stretched across nearly the entire 20th century (1901 -1998) but she blessed us a few years before her death (1995) with this intergenerational story in which she illuminates the social divisions of well-off blacks who created a "society" and culture based largely upon wealth and skin color.

West herself, the daughter of a freed slave turned successful businessman, actually summered in Martha's Vineyard where the novel is set, imparting a much-appreciated authenticity to THE
Mar 10, 2012 Amber added it
Amber Randol

The Wedding is set on the East Coast during the 1950s in a community known as the Oval, where middle and upper class African Americans live. The Coles’ daughter, Shelby, decided to marry out of her race and her class and it causes distress in her family. There is a back story about each family member because of their differing opinions involving the wedding. Her grandmother, her parents, and her sister are the main focus of the different stories and they show how they gr
May 23, 2010 Marty rated it did not like it
Fresh from reading (and loving) "The Help", I found this book in my "to be read" stash in the RV, and thought it would be a perfect book to read for another look at race issues, this time from the perspective of a black author. Sad to report that I was hugely disappointed. The beginning of the book was hard to follow and I had difficulty gettng the characters straight. the middle portion was much better as we seemed to settle on one set of characters and delve into the story. Unfortuanately, the ...more
Oct 14, 2015 Kayla rated it it was ok
Read for English 4850: Literature in Context

I did not care for this book. There was a LOT of backstory for the characters; and there were a LOT of characters. Good thing there was a family tree in the beginning of the book. Whew! My main turnoff in this book was Lute. He was an abusive character towards his wives (two past wives and one current). I felt like this was overlooked and almost passed off as okay in the story. And it's not okay. No one even noticed his current wife sitting in the car
Elizabeth K.
Oct 24, 2009 Elizabeth K. rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2007-new-reads
A family chronicle sort of book about an upper-middle class African-American family in the 1950s. Lots of interesting information about societal issues, skin tone, passing, etc. I enjoyed how the author created quick character sketches (it's a short book) for a relatively large cast. It is very much an ensemble piece, you don't get a real deep view of anyone in particular, and the characters tend to spark against each other to illustrate the author's commentary on cultural issues.

Grade: A
Patricia O'Sullivan
Aug 11, 2012 Patricia O'Sullivan rated it it was ok
This novel had potential to be really good. The topic of socially mobile 'coloreds' at the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th was fascinating. However, West's delivery was problematic. Her narrative skips back and forth between families, characters, and generations with no apparent order. Worse, she does not often allow her characters to speak for themselves. The narrative is hers alone, telling her characters' stories as if she doesn't trust them to come to the same conclusions abo ...more
Book Concierge
What a fascinating look at the Black professional class and the snobbery of color and class. Which group is less forgiving - the white Southerners longing for their pre-Civil War "home," or the middle/upper-class Blacks looking with disdain at their less-educated brothers.

(view spoiler)

Nov 22, 2015 Sharon rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, womens, families
Several generations of a family cope with the issues every family copes with and more, in that there are black ancestors and those married in, and many pass for white. So racial issues in a very different way, fascinating and charming, come to light. The modern family in the 1950s lives on Martha's Vineyard in a small, tight community of affluent blacks, though their many shades of color are accepted. It's a good community where all the mother's look after all the children. The two daughters of ...more
May 30, 2013 Trevia rated it it was amazing
Excellent story which exposes prejudice and color insecurities among affluent African-Americans in a post antebellum southern culture.
Apr 09, 2015 Becca rated it really liked it
Actual rating is 3.5 but I'll give it the half-star up. This fell off for me as it neared the end and shifted from historical recounting to (for story purposes) present-day. Maybe it was because, by that point, much of the story had been about getting us to this point so I didn't know the character's voices. Aside from the conversation between the sisters, Liz and Shelby, (and the heartwrenching conversation with Clark and Shelby) the dialogue threw me off.

These were a bunch of tortured charact
Jun 06, 2013 Kimberly rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! So sad i'm not related to the author in real life....but i'm going to pretend I am.
Celeste Rousselot
Mar 16, 2015 Celeste Rousselot rated it really liked it
Dorothy West writes tonal magic. I just love the flow of images, the believability of the dialogue and the succinct descriptions of life among former slaves. These particular ex-slaves were often educated by white, female school teachers raised in religious traditions in the North. These women were dedicated to opening a path for the brightest of poor Southern blacks to better lives as Northern black bourgeoisie. While ready to care for and educate the other African Americans flowing up from the ...more
Susan Dillon
Jul 18, 2014 Susan Dillon rated it really liked it
West writes beautifully about a familiar topic in African-American literature, the internecine racism and self-hatred that were slavery's legacies. The characters are engaging, and the descriptions of summers on Martha's Vineyard are gorgeous. West covers much of the same ground as Toni Morrison but in a more straightforward way. Suggestion: Sketch a family tree as you read. She chronicles several generations but not chronologically, and it's easy to lose track of how characters are related to e ...more
Susanna Sturgis
What an exquisite, poignant, heart-wrenching novel. In one sense, the wedding of the title doesn't take place in these 240 pages. In another, the whole book is about the weddings -- the matings and meldings -- that eventually produced Shelby, the bride-to-be. As a child, Shelby, the younger daughter of the affluent Coles family, was mistaken for white. She could pass if she wanted to. She doesn't, but the man she's engaged to is white. Worse, as far as her family is concerned, he's not a doctor: ...more
This was a pleasant novel about a prominent New York African-American family and how color is dealt within the black family. It's interesting because even today, some African-Americans are concerned about the color of offspring and the potential color of an intended. In some areas of the black community, the barometer was the paperbag test --- If you were darker than a brown paperbag, you were considered a less desirable. There was no room for the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice among th ...more
Well, we are making some progress in my 20th Century Lit. class. We have read a novel, a real full-length novel. Of course, that is one of the few positive things I can actually say about The Wedding. As I joked to my friend Rachel, The Wedding should really be called The Cole Family Drama with a Side of Plot. Another friend of mine suggested it should be called The Non-Wedding Wedding. Sorry if this is a spoiler, but no wedding occurs in this novel. The whole story revolves around the upcoming ...more
Apr 18, 2012 Jasmine rated it really liked it
I read this years after first seeing the Oprah Winfrey movie based on the book in 90s that starred Halle Berry. I'm actually glad for once that I saw the movie before seeing the book because even though the book outlines the spirit behind what the characters are feeling, the movie does a good job of bringing that to life in detail. Can't recommend it enough.

Anyway, about the book. The simplistic writing style worked here, even though it's not usually my cup of tea. I really loved how West explai
(FROM JACKET)On the island of Martha's Vineyard, a very special community has flourished since the turn of the century, an exclusive summer colony of affluent vacationers. A proud, insular, nearly unassailable group, it is made up of the best and the brightest of America's black middle class. A world of doctors and ministers and lawyers and college presidents, it represents a side of the black experience known by too few, a side that is seldom considered. It is a world Dorothy West knows well, f ...more
Jun 24, 2015 Jessica rated it liked it
Sadly this book fell far short of my expectations. I picked it up based on West's reputation and the book taking place on Martha's Vineyard, my favorite summer spot. I believe West is best known for her short stories which shows in this novel. Many chapters trace the family's story back through the generations and while the individual stories are interesting it doesn't really all come together. And thankfully there is a family tree at the beginning of the book or else you might get mighty confus ...more
Jul 31, 2016 Les rated it it was ok
My Original Notes (1996):

Confusing! Hard to follow the characters. I really was ready to quit reading it after about 100 pages, but kept at it. It got a little better - enough to hold my attention - but certainly not great.

My Current Thoughts:

I have absolutely no recollection of this book and I'm not sure why I chose to read it. It wasn't a book group choice, so maybe I just stumbled upon it in a bookstore and thought it sounded interesting.
Nov 08, 2014 Lucy rated it really liked it
the beauty! the beauty!

"I spent the day in a nightmare. I watched a parade of dead souls. They had died in my houses. They had died hemorrhaging life. But others kept coming up from the South, looking to claim their piece of the promised land. My houses stayed full. My profits never fell. That property paid for itself a hundred times over. But I didn’t know I was making a deal with death. I never deserved to be a doctor’s wife. I wanted the label without the loneliness. You live to make live. Yo
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Dorothy West was a novelist and short story writer who was part of the Harlem Renaissance. She is best known for her novel The Living Is Easy, about the life of an upper-class black family.

West's principal contribution to the Harlem Renaissance was to publish the magazine C
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“Identity is not inherent. It is shaped by circumstance and sensitivity and resistance to self-pity.” 20 likes
“Beauty is but skin deep, ugly to the bone. And when beauty fades away, ugly claims its own.” 16 likes
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