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Brown Girl, Brownstones
Paule Marshall
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Brown Girl, Brownstones

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  2,566 ratings  ·  115 reviews
2014 Reprint of 1959 Edition. Full facsimile of the original edition, not reproduced with Optical Recognition Software. Brown Girl, Brownstones is the first novel by the internationally recognized writer Paule Marshall, published in 1959. It is about Barbadian immigrants in Brooklyn, New York. The book gained widespread recognition after it was reprinted in 1981. The somew ...more
Paperback, 318 pages
Published April 14th 2014 by Martino Fine Books (first published 1959)
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4.06  · 
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 ·  2,566 ratings  ·  115 reviews

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Jul 30, 2016 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 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 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
Erica Freeman
Oct 08, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember the year exactly because Professor Elaine Hansen gave me and
Lisa, one of my dearest friends ever, an A for our writing and presentation on this one.
Nov 23, 2010 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.
Jul 10, 2013 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
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-novel
Painful is the word that comes to mind. I've just finished this and am trying to figure out how to convey that ache in my chest that I get whenever I read, listen to, or see something powerful that hurts. This is one such instance. Brown Girl, Brownstones shows us how people are shaped by generations worth of circumstance, a pretty amazing feat considering the novel charts the protagonist's coming of age - of a sort of realization - that takes place from 1939 till about the mid 1940s, I'd say.

Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Marshall digs deep into her own past as the daughter of immigrants, shining a light at the same time on the experience of being defined first by your dark skin.

What really grabbed me in this novel were the characters and the complicated and ambivalent family and community relationships they inhabit. It's not only immigrants who invest everything in their children and a future dream, who live not their own lives, but sacrifice themselves to an idea of happiness that their children may not want or
Sidik Fofana
Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Six Word Review: Unsung hero of the black canon.
May 01, 2012 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 non-white imm ...more
Nov 24, 2011 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
Jun 24, 2014 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
Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

I loved this novel of a Bajan family struggling to make good for themselves in 1950s Brooklyn, New York. The immigrant experience is a frequent theme in literature, but I think novels seldom evoke their culture and the clash of inter-generational ideas as well as Paule Marshall does in Brown Girl, Brownstones. Her characters are so vibrantly alive and vividly described that I could easily envisage the city through their eyes. Selina's mother,
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: second-reading
Excellent work. This is a fine coming of age story of a second generation Barbadian girl growing up in Brooklyn during the 1930s into the early 50s. The story reflects the author's own experiences as a second generation American born girl whose parents immigrated from Barbados. The book is from a feminine perspective not simply a girl's. Marshall's vivid prose gives voice to all sorts of Bajan women, and one African American woman. From the text we gather that there may be superficial difference ...more
Kara Corthron
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not long after I began reading this book, I wondered why in the world I hadn't read it sooner and why I knew nothing about it when I was a teenager. Modern, complex, and bold, this is a story that will stay with you. It's rare for me to read a novel and constantly think about it when it isn't opened in front of me. Or to find myself comparing my everyday experiences as a black woman to those of its protagonist frequently. This is THAT book. I give it 5 enthusiastic stars, but do remember that it ...more
Mar 30, 2011 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
Feb 20, 2017 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
Mary Jo
Mar 06, 2013 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.
Feb 21, 2009 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.
Sep 10, 2010 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!
Nyasha Junior
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
phenomenal girl coming of age novel #sixwordreview
Oct 19, 2007 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.
Aug 06, 2008 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.
Jan 02, 2016 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
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barbadian accents are hard to read. That aside, this was a good book about a girl coming of age in war-time Brooklyn and how she encountered racism as a young adult. Even today, people just think that all blacks are the same, like all Asians are the same. And even the nicest people can be the most racist.

Earlier in the book, I was drawn into the tumultuous and broken relationships of Selina's family. Deighton and Silla were so opposite of one another and their daughters even more different. Neit
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ethnic-fiction
I read this a long time ago, just entering it now. I should go back and re-read it, because it is so relevant to the times we are now living through. Beautifully written story of a young black girl struggling to grow up in the inner city.
Chantal Johnson
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Linda Doyle
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could have enjoyed this novel more than I did. It's beautifully written, the main characters are well drawn, and the themes are important. The problems I have with it are its slow pace and the protagonist, Selina, whose strong personality occasionally borders on cruelty toward her friends and family. There is a reason for her cruelty, but it still doesn't endear her to me. Selina's parents are black immigrants (from Barbados) trying to forge a better life in a brownstone in Brooklyn. Se ...more
Diane Collins
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good story line. Shows the struggle of family trying to make it in Urban Brooklyn. First time reading this author will read other works.
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bildungsroman or incident? 1 15 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