Brown Girl, Brownstones tells the story of a young Barbadian American caught between the ambitious dreams of her forward-looking mother and the rose-tinted nostalgia of her father. While Selina's mother strives diligently to save enough money to buy a brownstone in Brooklyn, her father dreams only of returning to his home in Barbados. Managing a constellation of difficult family and cultural dynamics, Selina is also faced with navigating the complex maze of immigrant identity in America and bearing the burdens of racism and poverty.Set against the backdrop of The Great Depression and WWII, the close-knit community of immigrants from Barbados where Selina grows up is drawn from the author's own experience as a young girl in Brooklyn. This novel, first published in 1959, was one of the first to probe the difficult cross-cultural conflicts and identities so integral to the experiences of America's innumerable immigrant communities. A vibrant and compelling tale of self-discovery, Brown Girl, Brownstones, is a striking and honest novel about a too-often overlooked American experience.
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, Silla, whose pragmatic obsession with purchasing their leased brownstone causes her to act ruthlessly. Between them and the outspoken cast of supporting characters, Selina has many options for how to model her own life.
The pages of Brown Girl, Brownstones fly by quickly, assisted by the realness of the characters' voices. I particularly enjoyed Marshall's use of Barbadian dialect, which helps to locate the novel in a particular time and place.
Brown Girl, Brownstones is an especially good choice for teenagers, but also for adults who are interested in stories set between the depression and the '50s.