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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   



14. Becoming Visible

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- James Baldwin
- Saul Bellow
- Gwendolyn Brooks
- Ralph Ellison
- Bernard Malamud
- Paule Marshall
- Arthur Miller
- N. Scott Momaday
- Grace Paley
- Philip Roth
- Suggested
Author
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•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Paule Marshall (b. 1929)

The Return of Ulysses
[6715] Romare Bearden, The Return of Ulysses (1976), courtesy of the Romare Bearden Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Paule Marshall Activities
This link leads to artifacts, teaching tips and discussion questions for this author.
Born Valenza Pauline Burke to parents who had emigrated from Barbados to New York, Paule Marshall explores the contrasts between her West Indian heritage-a heritage of slavery and colonial exploitation-and her Brooklyn background and confronts the issues of identity and assimilation that face Caribbean American families. Maintaining one's identity and voice while dealing with these issues remains a common theme in her work.

Marshall graduated from Brooklyn College in 1953 and worked for a popular African American magazine, Our World. Her first novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones, was published in 1959. Praisesong for the Widow (1983) established her as a major writer and won her the Columbus Foundation American Book Award. Other works include Soul Clap Hands and Sing (1961), Reena and Other Short Stories (1983), Daughters (1991), and The Fisher King (2000).

While Marshall claims that she is indebted to the "literary giants," both black and white, she notes that "they were preceded in my life by another set of giants . . . the group of women around the table long ago-this is why the best of my work must be attributed to them; it stands as testimony to the rich language and culture they so freely passed on to me in the wordshop of the kitchen." Indeed, her early novels focus on the power of the oral tradition and the idea of women as oral translators of their culture who are able to define themselves and their world based on their ability to articulate their feelings. In Marshall's works, conversation becomes a means of empowerment, and addressing the spiritual over the material offers important affirmation. Marshall's focus on the Afro-diasporic culture as well as black women protagonists as voices of the immigrant community has opened new avenues of discussion and expanded the concept of what it means to be American.



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