Brown Girl, Brownstones

by Paule Marshall

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How does Paule Marshall portray gender in Brown Girl, Brownstones?

In Brown Girl, Brownstones, Marshall portrays gender by exploring the unique challenges of womanhood. For example, she discusses the details of female sexual maturation like menstruation. Through this, she shows the social pressures and complex emotions women face as their bodies change. Through Selina's experiences, Marshall also highlights the intersecting roles of gender and race in identity development.

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In Brown Girl, Brownstones, Paule Marshall illustrates how the coming-of-age experience is unique for women. For example, Marshall frankly describes the physical changes that women go through during puberty, such as menstruation. She also explores the complex topic of motherhood, as Selina is resistant to the idea of giving birth. Selina also has a strained relationship with her own mother, who is emotionally distant as a result of her difficult life experiences. Through such discussions, Marshall shows how female sexual maturity can be associated with both decreasing independence and expanding community.

Ultimately, Marshall’s characters portray women as powerful and strong. For example, consider how Silla is determined to save money and support her family or how Selina finds herself despite having to navigate complex relationships.

Marshall also brings attention to the intersection of race and gender. She shows readers how identity development is unique for Black females, because of their multiple minority identities. Consider how Selina is attacked in the South by a racist man. Moments like this show how Selina’s life experiences are complicated by both her gender identity and her racial identity. This shows readers that race and gender are intertwined in how they shape a person’s development.

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