Brown girl, brownstones

by Paule Marshall

Paper Book, 1959


Checked out



Old Westbury, N.Y. : Feminist Press, [1981] c1959.


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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member flourish_leslie
I probably wouldn't have ever heard of Brown Girl, Brownstones if it hadn't been assigned for the African American Literature by Women course I'm taking this semester. However, it has a deserved place among novels about the immigrant experience and coming of age.

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.
… (more)
LibraryThing member j-plant
I had mixed feelings about this book. I liked the book because of the fact that the plot tells the story of a family who comes from an impoverished, but pristine island nation to a place that is a lot less friendly and accepting. It describes how the mother of the family struggles to keep her family afloat in the face of racism, poverty, and the desire for upward mobility while the father of the family has delusions, negative impulses, selfishness, and other traits that seek to destroy everything that they worked for. I did not, however, like the fact that the writing style of this book doesn't challenge readers to think about the social issues that face immigrant societies. The writing style also seemed forgettable, as it did not push me, the reader, to explore additional books that describe West Indian culture. The book did not hold my interest. The main idea of this book details two central characters as they overcome difficulties from many fronts, including society and the people that are closest to them.… (more)


Original publication date


Physical description

324 p.; 21 cm


0912670967 / 9780912670966
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