The Wedding
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The Wedding

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  2,111 ratings  ·  119 reviews
In her first novel in forty-seven years, Dorothy West, the last surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance, offers an intimate glimpse into African American middle class. Set on bucolic Martha's Vineyard in the 1950s, The Wedding tells the story of life in the Oval, a proud, insular community made up of the best and brightest of the East Coast's black bourgeoisie. Within t...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 1st 1996 by Anchor (first published January 1st 1995)
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Ari
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
Jean Barrington
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
Kristine

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...more
Amber
Mar 10, 2012 Amber added it
Amber Randol
Multicultural

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...more
Elizabeth K.
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
Recomme...more
Clytee
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...more
Jasmine
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...more
J
(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
Marty
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
Carol
This short novel covered an immense amount of ground without every feeling overstuffed or superficial. The Wedding is also absolutely American in subject matter and feel. It is a portrait of the Coles, a wealthy African-American family in the 1950s, as they vacation at their Martha's Vineyard summer home and prepare for the upcoming wedding of their younger daughter Shelby. West perfectly captures the warm, languid feel of a New England late summer of leisure as well as the loving comforts and f...more
Kennedy Godette
I read this book a few years ago and I have seen a movie based on the book produced by Oprah Winfrey and with Halle Berry in the lead role. The movie was excellent! This is a very interesting book about the social mores of American black elite and the segregation that existed within the black race. Social standing had less to do with how much money a person was worth than it did with "right" skin tone. I had the opportunity to purchase the book a few weeks ago and I decided to read it again. A h...more
Lauren
Published in the early 1990s, this novel traces the legacy of a prominent African-American family in the 1950s on the eve of the youngest daughter’s marriage to a white jazz musician. It’s less a traditional novel than a meditation of what was and what happened during Ms. West’s life. I’ve read other attempts at a similar dynamic, but most of them feel forced – a sort of desperate attempt by an author to prove he or she is artistic and deep. In comparison, this novel succeeds because of Ms. West...more
Chana
The first third of the book took me 2 days to read as I found it boring and slightly distasteful. Distasteful because Lute was an unscrupulous and untrustworthy character, and marriage was a matter of survival, convenience, family ties, status and meddling; sex enjoyed with mistresses or sublimated in work - not that all that is not true today but one hopes for more. The rest of the book took me about 2 hours as the story became more interesting; background and history given, questions about rac...more
Dianne Davidson
A source of great curiosity for me is the era leading up to the explosion of civil rights. It boggles my mind to consider what the African American Race endured under slavery. How does someone recover from the mentality? It is no wonder I should have suchquestions. Born in the early 50's, southern heritage, white, upper middle class, the hand that rocked my cradle and kissed away my hurts was a black woman. So, why did/do the blacks hate whites so much? All of this is to say, this book, written...more
Fred
Beautifully written, West's characters live and breathe/seem like real and varied people from the first page, and her gently-put, but penetrating and arch understanding of the historic and lingering complexities of race, class, and region in America is unparalleled - this isn't an angry or polemic book, though it certainly could be - she's seen enough - it's human and wise instead, and leaves one really wishing one knew Ms. West in person - she must've been quite a lady...

"The Living is Easy" (w...more
Veelashae
By the time the first male character was introduced, I realized this was a movie with Lynn Whitfield and Halle Berry. I must say the book (as in most circumstances) far outweighs thr movie. Dorothy West does an astounding and exceptional job articulating and depicting the family lineages, as well as the coming of this middle class Black American community during a time when race was a prerequisite for how far society "thought" you would go. A reminder of how far we've come, yet still such a way...more
Barbara
The Wedding is the first book by the author in nearly 50 years. Her last novel was written in 1948, this book in 1995. Dorothy West was very active in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920's, starting magazines and writing novels. This novel covers the last days leading up to a wedding, as well as the background of the bride's family. They are a well-to-do African American family and the bride is marrying a white jazz musician. How the family members got where they are and how they and the bride co...more
Mary Anne
I picked this book up to read because it was the selection for this month's library book club discussion. This was a very interesting book which showed the racial prejudices that exist within the black community -- depending on shade of skin. The characters were members of an elite group and had complicated generational histories. I enjoyed the book very much, although at times I had to go back and re-read parts to keep some of the characters straight. The ending was totally unexpected and sort...more
Patricia O'Sullivan
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
Grace
Don't let the title fool you, it's not a sappy romance novel, this book really has substance. Written by Dorothy West, one of the Harlem Renaissance's great female authors, The Wedding shows the reader a point of view rarely represented in modern literature. Enjoyable read that really transports the reader into a different way of thinking; a thoughtful look into 1950's upper class African-American society that focuses on family, class and race. So many great aspects to this book-- definitely one...more
Awalach
Not my favorite. I didn't like the style of writing, found it hard to follow at times. She jumped from one character to another without much organization. I had a difficult time keeping people straight. Some of the characters were interesting and I feel like I would have enjoyed their stories more had she written it in a different way. I feel like she got more organized towards the end of the book. I really did enjoy some of the story lines but I really disliked the ending! That sort of ruined t...more
Malina Parker
"The Wedding" is a great book! Shelby Cole is on vacation with her family in the Northeast, Martha's Vineyard. She is to marry Meade Wyler, a young, white jazz musician. This book consist of interracial love, meddling family members and a third person trying to get Shelby's attention, Lute McNeil.

Her family are members of the Ovalites, black bourgeoisie who have ruled African American "society" for decades. By Shelby having her wedding at Martha's Vineyard the Ovalites will be able to attend he...more
Dawn
Mar 26, 2008 Dawn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Dawn by: Miss D
This book made me really consider how every moment is made possible by every other moment that came before it. It's also a pretty sweet illustration of the complexity of racial identity and social status. I think Dorothy West's writing is beautiful (is there an adjective form of "tapestry"? Because I think it's very tapestry-like.), and I really appreciate how she tackles huge topics gracefully. The family tree she provided at the beginning of the book also helps! I referred to it constantly.
Lenore
I read this book for our June, 2013 Book Club discussion. I had a difficult time getting through it as I did not have much interest in the characters or their prejudices. Written in 1995 about an inter-racial marriage on Martha's Vineyard in the 1960's, the characters' racial prejudices seem difficult to believe in 2013. Dorothy West was a key person in the Harlem Renaissance and I suspect that her reputation as an author was based on other writings, not this one.
Book Concierge
SPOILER ALERT ...

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. And was Tina's death punishment for Lute's daring to move up in rank? Or for his dalliances with white women? Or for his gross mistreatment of women?









Lee
Dorothy West, a member of the Harlem Renaissance, painted a vibrant picture of an extended African-American family in this novel. Her story starts and ends with a family summering on Martha's Vineyard in the 1950's but also journeys as far back as the post-Civil War era.

This is an interesting exploration of the effects of race and class on relationships within families and the larger community. West's writing is evocative and precise; this is a lovely book.
Kaye
On the island of Martha's Vineyard in the 1950s a community known as the Oval, made up of the best of New York's and Boston's black professionals. Dr. Clark Coles and his wife Corinne, are alarmed that their youngest daughter Shelby is set on marrying Meade Wyler, a white jazz musician from New York. As they gather for the wedding is love enough to see it through? One of the last books edited for Doubleday by the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Cicely
I really enjoyed this book. The book was told from so many perspectives, and I thought they were all spot on - from 4 year olds to 90 year olds, black, white, rich, poor - West had a style that worked throughout. I loved her narrative style, and the wending way in which she shared the family history. Also thought there were some excellent thoughts on the institution of marriage, and the role of careers/race/gender in how we frame ourselves. Excellent.
Susan
I have followed Oprah's books for a long time, but this one just really got me down. I understand the premise of the book that follows white and black families on an island as they integrate into a more non-colored modern world. I felt that the book just had too big of a cast of characters to keep track of. I will admit that some of them left your with definite feelings of anger or sadness. Not high on my recommend list.
Jessica
This novel was a quick read, beautifully written. There's something about escaping to an old mansion on an East Coast island in the middle of a balmy summer where two sisters contemplate their husbands which was spot on for my winter by the fireplace. The book takes place over one or two days and includes evocative descriptions of the many veils of memory that color those days for each character.
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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...more
More about Dorothy West...
The Living is Easy The Richer, the Poorer The Last Leaf of Harlem: Selected and Newly Discovered Fiction by the Author of The Wedding Where The Wild Grape Grows: Selected Writings, 1930-1950 The Dorothy West Marthas Vineyard: Stories, Essays and Reminiscences by Dorothy West Writing in the Vineyard Gazette

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“Identity is not inherent. It is shaped by circumstance and sensitivity and resistance to self-pity.” 8 likes
“Beauty is but skin deep, ugly to the bone. And when beauty fades away, ugly claims its own.” 4 likes
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