This is a memoir of sorts by Paule Marshall, who “ is an American author, whose novels emphasize the need for black Americans to reclaim their African heritage”. That is from Wiki. She is the author of Brownstone, Brown Girl, Praisesong for the Widow, among several other widely acclaimed novels. Although she has been writing since the late 50s, she has not come across my radar before this.
She was born of Barbados immigrants, and lived in Brooklyn for a long time, much of it in the Bed-Sty section.
In this small memoir, she tells of the early life of her mother and her mother’s family in Barbados, of her father’s deliberately obscure origins, of the times she returned to the various islands of the West Indies on grant money to work on her novels.
She begins the book with a long homage to Langston Hughes, whom she knew well and traveled with on a cultural tour to Europe in the mid-sixties. Hughes was a mentor to a number of Black writers in the time after his days as an activist in the Civil Rights movement.
I found it a less than enthralling book. Interesting, yes, but not enthralling. It felt like she was tired of telling her story, so just cobbled together a few episodes and incidents of her life and called it done. Well, of course, by that time she was 80 years old. The chapters would have made nice blog posts, but for me did not mean much as a book. Perhaps it was published (in 2009) because she had not published any fiction since 2000 and was in danger of becoming irrelevant and forgotten, in the shade of so many up and coming women-of-color authors. What do I know. I am only a simple peasant who reads a lot.
However, it did introduce me to her, and now I have a couple of her books in the queue to read. I may even live long enough to read them.