ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Brown Girl Brownstones by Paule Marshall - Book Review

Updated on May 12, 2011

Paule Marshall's novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones, accurately portrayed the complexities of African American mother-daughter relationships as well as culture. Selina Boyce is the daughter of first-generation Bajan immigrant parents, Deighton and Silla, who have come to America in search of a better life. While Deighton has his heart set on eventually returning to Barbados once they have acquired enough money, his wife Silla has different plans. Silla is determined to obtain her part of the American dream and initially works as a cleaning woman for the upscale whites so that one day she, too, will be able to own property, or “buy house” as she and her other Bajan neighbors refer to it. She is determined to stay in America, for she feels that there is nothing in Barbados for her family. The book covers the broad issue of ethnic duality. Selina rebels against her given ethnic identity, and yet comes to a kind of resolution with her community.

The most striking issue I found to represent this “duality” of cultures within the novel was this constant clash between a husband and his wife. Silla is obsessed with owning a “brownstone” and goes so far as to forge Deighton's signature on legal documents so that she can get the money for the property. Deighton, besieged and sorrowful of his lost dreams, spends all of the remaining money to spite his wife. He is consequently turned in by Silla to immigration and deported. This type of reaction is not normal, and could be considered to be strikingly harsh and cold. This leaves Silla alone with her newly acquired “brownstone” as well as her guilt, and Selina with the task of coming to terms with strong, indecisive feelings toward her mother and her own Bajan American heritage. In Lifelines: Black Book of Proverbs by Askhari Johnson, it comments on marriage that “Husband is the tie; wife is the parcel: when the tie breaks, the parcel loosens,” (Nigeria). It also says, “Husbands are like firewood; If left unattended, they go out,” (Africa).

Silla would belittle and criticize Deighton instead of consoling with him. At one point she says to him, “You ain’t no real-real Bajan man,” (p.173). Therein lays the cultural clash. She sees Deighton as lazy and a dreamer, but not a hard worker and a pragmatist like a typical “Bajan” This is an intense moment as the severity of this comment would greatly offend anyone in the Bajan community. The second instance of her rebellion against her husband was his own deportation and consequent demise. While thought to be in the best interests of her family, Silla begins to lose them instead. She is a loose parcel, and she struggles to stay together afterwards. “Hitler” is repeated by Selina over and over at her father’s leave. Silla is in a very small way her own Hitler, not someone of mass genocide and utter madness, but someone who strongly drives culture into the minds of her followers, and loses loved ones because of it. Silla is stuck in a tough situation however; she is torn between the allegiance of her husband and the respect of the community and security of her family. In my opinion however, Silla loses her own sense of identity through her adherence to the Bajan community’s unspoken will, and loses her husband and in a way, even her daughter for a time.

Brown Girl, Brownstones resists the idea that ethnicity is destiny and embraces individualism as an important value. However, Selina still feels that responsibility towards her ethnic group or ethnic duties and that ethnicity is inescapable after all. It harshly criticizes and yet celebrates the Bajan community, and becomes a signature American novel through its migratory nature and the struggle for identity that a young girl comes to find. Although this is a Bajan culture, it resembles Hispanic culture in many ways through the character and came close to home with me as my own father was once deported. It is an outstanding novel and scintillatingly new cultural experience for me.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • ubanichijioke profile image

      Alexander Thandi Ubani 

      7 years ago from Lagos

      A great review. I think the tale of the story about the immigrants husband and wife who found it hard to come together for a common purpose. Great review my friend


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)