Form and Content
Paule Marshall is the daughter of Barbadian immigrants who came to the United States after World War I. Marshall was born in Brooklyn, New York, in the tightly knit, hard-working community of Bajans and has spent most of her life in the New York area. Problems of acculturation and racism that she experienced as a black woman and as the child of immigrants became parts of her stories. Many of these stories were based on those she heard in her mother’s kitchen. The language used there became an integral part of her writing, particularly in Reena and Other Stories.
Reena and Other Stories consists of six short stories: “The Valley Between,” “Brooklyn,” “Barbados,” “Reena,” “To Da-duh, in Memoriam,” and “Merle,” which is adapted from Marshall’s novel, The Chosen Place, the Timeless People. Included also is an essay, “The Making of a Writer: From the Poets in the Kitchen,” which was first published in The New York Times. In several stories, Marshall introduces the reader to an infrequently encountered area of African American literature: the immigrant experience. The major themes in this collection of short stories are a search for identity in an oppressive environment and the importance of history and tradition for African Americans, especially women.
The stories deal not only with West Indian immigrant women but also with African American women and women in a Caribbean setting. These women are in...
(The entire section is 607 words.)