Literature – Brown Girl, Brownstones: A Novel

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Summary: Journal entry summarizing book- “Brown Girl, Brownstones: A Novel” [1959] (The Feminist Press, 2006)


Noted for her ability to sculpt impeccable images and riveting dialect that recall Barbados, the birthplace of her immigrant parents, Marshall fuses the culture and history of this colonial island with cacophonies of America’s most urban island: New York City. Set in 1930s Brooklyn, the novel concerns a black girl named Selina Boyce.

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Marshall brought the architecture and landscape of this community to life, infusing the environment with human attributes. As Selina journeys to womanhood, she has to negotiate with parents whose contrary personalities are also rooted in that first paragraph. Her mother, Silla, is like one of the brownstone houses – stern, impenetrable, fulfilling a practical function. The household, Silla Boyce is the exemplar of pragmatism, always working to improve the family’s financial and social status. Selina’s father, Deighton, represents the “summer’s heat and passion.” He moves from job to job, dream to dream, never satisfied with the stability associated with traditional labor and at times oblivious to his tasks as husband as well as father, but a loving man nonetheless (Pettis, 2000).

As daughters will do, Selina cannot view her father as anything short of saintly. They enjoy wonderful conversations about the world beyond their brownstone. In Selina’s mind, he affirms her desire to dream beyond present circumstances. In his wife’s mind, he is setting Selina up for disappointment in adulthood.

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