Paule Marshall, 12th Annual ODU Literary Festival


Paule Marshall

Document Type

Featured Participant

Festival Date



Newport News Room, Webb Center; Mills Godwin Auditorium

Author/Artist Bio

Paule Marshall has been called "one of the best novelists writing in the United States," and "almost too gifted." Her first novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones is an autobiographical account of a sensitive girl of West Indian parents struggling to maturity in Brooklyn. Critics said of it, "Her language is strikingly beautiful and powerfully effective...she adopts and adapts the West Indian dialect, fusing it with Biblical and literary allusions to create a language that compels imaginative associations and entertains with the sheer delight of sound." When Soul Clap Hands and Sing, a collection of four novellas set in Barbados, Brooklyn, British Guiana, and Brazil, appeared in 1961 critics praised it for having "suddenly expanded a private sense of race and color into an enormously wide chiaroscuro of life itself in its mixed moods and human destinies... . The complexity and range of meaning are dazzling, and it is a remarkable achievement." The Chosen Place, The Timeless People, 1969, was called "a parable of Western civilization and its relations with the undeveloped world... . Her most impressive feat is the transformation of politics and history into ritual and myth." Critics also noted that "When Marshall writes about those she truly loves, she cannot be resisted. She brings an instinctive understanding, a generosity, and a free humor that combine to form a style remarkable for its courage, color, and its natural control." Reena and Other Stories, a collection of her early work, appeared in 1983, followed by Praisesong for the Widow, 1984, which has been called "both convincing and eerily dreamlike." The central character's "wistful journey to her younger self is universal and it is astonishingly moving." Her new novel, Daughters, will appear in 1990. Among other honors, she has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rosenthal Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Langston Hughes Award Medallion. Marshall teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University.


Paule Marshall spoke at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 5, in the Newport News Room of Webb Center. She also read from her fiction at 8 o'clock that evening in the Mills Godwin Auditorium.


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