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The Wedding

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  4,263 ratings  ·  218 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 Wedding tells the story of life in the Oval, a proud, insular community made up of the best and bri
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 1st 1996 by Anchor (first published January 1st 1995)
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4.5 Stars

I rarely say this but The Wedding could have used another 100 pages. This novel is amazing and it packs quite a punch to be as short a novel as it is. The Wedding by Dorothy West explores so many important themes that I feel are often overlooked in African American literature, colorism, class, and money.

The Cole family is a wealthy and prominent African American family spending a 1950's summer on Martha's Vineyard. The Coles are light skinned and wear their fair skin like a badge of ho
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is Dorothy West’s second novel, published quite late in her life. West was best known for being part of the Harlem Renaissance in the late1920s and early 1930s. She wrote short stories and also briefly edited a magazine. She spent the last fifty years of her life living in Martha’s Vineyard.
This novel is set in the mid-1950s in Martha’s Vineyard and looks at the summer residents of a group of cottages called The Oval. The summer is going to revolve around the marriage of Shelby Coles to a
Sep 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I recommended this title for my book club. While comprised of an extremely diverse group of women, none were Black and the notion of racism within the Black community was a revelation. It spawned an extraordinary and enlightening discussion of the root source for the attitudes and the unique experiences of affluence in the Black community.

Dorothy West was one of the last of the Harlem Renaissance writers and Jackie Onassis edited this story. It was a privilege to read this story and discuss its
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This beautiful and timeless novel was written by Dorothy West, one of the last surviving writers of the Harlem Renaissance. The story takes place in Martha's Vineyard in 1953, as Shelby a young woman of an upper class black family, is preparing to wed Meade a white jazz musician. There are misgivings among the couple and the extended family whether this mixed marriage will be successful, and through effective use of flashback we learn about Shelby's family and the dynamics that have shaped them. ...more
Feb 10, 2011 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
Mar 28, 2015 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
Jun 28, 2010 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
Sarah Weathersby
This book takes place in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, where the blue-veined people gather every summer. Shelby Coles (a "colored" girl) is to marry a white musician. But before the vows are even considered, there is the lively backstory, going back to the day when little girl Shelby gets lost in the "Oval," by following a dog who got entangled in his leash. It seems that everyone in the Oval sees Shelby wandering, but nobody identifies her because they see her as a white child.

There is so m
Latanya (CraftyScribbles)
This book beauty is in the words and the pictures drawn regarding the multigenerational legacy of a black middle-class family in the 1953's Martha's Vineyard. Fair enough to pass as white, class and race echo throughout each page.

Pros: Beautiful story, rich in detail

Cons: Sometimes the rich detail of subplot drags the main plot, which rushes the final chapters of the novel. The end feels abrupt.

Still I recommend this tale as a glimpse into a history, marked by unfair social expectations and th
Colette Byfield
Feb 29, 2016 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
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stunning language, turn of phrase, and poetic rhythm in the words are the premier reason I give this book my rare five star. The glimpse into the lives of wealthy "colored" (Dorothy West's word) families on Martha's vineyard in the 1950's is fascinating . Their prejudices and fear and mistrust of darker skinned " coloreds" was mystifying to me until close to the tragic end. What a gifted storyteller the world lost when West died in 1998. What a legacy she left. Now I wonder if I can watch the mi ...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
Aug 08, 2012 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.
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
(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
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
Lynette Lark
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was also a movie. Highly educated, wealthy, mixed race families and the angst it causes sometimes. The "where do I belong" syndrome. The book was edited by Jackie Kennedy.
Robert Wechsler
Oct 09, 2018 marked it as tasted
Shelves: american-lit
I decided to read this novel during the week of my step-son’s wedding. I can’t say enough good about it: intelligent, funny, surprising. The reason for my putting it down was my own limitation (memory), not the novel’s: too many characters were introduced and I kept having to look back at the family tree to keep things straight. I failed, and knew that, when the wedding came, I would be lost. This is a novel to be read straight through, not in bits and pieces by someone without the best of memor ...more
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
Apr 13, 2012 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
Feb 06, 2013 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 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 12, 2011 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
Susan Emmet
Oct 31, 2014 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
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: ocala-book-club
I am about played out when it comes to stories about race within the black community. Not much has changed and I fail to see more changes for the future. This book is about race consciousness and class consciousness. At the crux of the story are the black characters striving to achieve what they see/think others have, while those who have all they could want are dissatisfied and unfulfilled, but want to exclude those who have not made the financial or skin color "cut." Whites get angry and feel ...more
May 23, 2010 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
Aug 29, 2015 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 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 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
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was our book club selection for the month of October. I gave the book 5 stars because Dorothy West is an important author to the Harlem Renaissance and the story did not turn out the way I expected. I did not see that ending coming. However, this is not a book I enjoyed reading due to the writing style. But this is a book that should be read for historical perspective of the Harlem Renaissance. I will read her other books, stories and essays because I am curious to see if she used the ...more
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African-American ...: September 2018 The Wedding by Dorothy West 19 24 Nov 28, 2018 01:43PM  
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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.” 22 likes
“Beauty is but skin deep, ugly to the bone. And when beauty fades away, ugly claims its own.” 17 likes
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