Paule Marshall: Iconic Caribbean Writer of the People (April 9, 1929-August 12, 2019)

Dear Paule:paule-marshall-82c23b76-d605-4b66-8c21-4854fcc7032-resize-750

You gave me Brownstone, Brown Girl, 1959 and Praisesong for a Widow, 1983.

In all your other nine books, you kept giving me pieces of myself and my people to see and cherish, but mainly to understand what drives us, what stops us, what chokes us, what keeps us bound and how and why some have to be bound so others can be free, and that the walk to this freedom is never an easy, clear path; it might include defiance and consciously going against all you have been taught to hold dear, as Selina had to do, silencing Selia, the mother she loves and hates, and to whom she is closer that she can yet admit.

Paule, you also told me that sometimes I have to jump ship like Avey to find herself back home in Carriacou and dance the Juba Dance to the Big Drums.

But always you wanted to remind me/us that we are from The Chosen Place, The Timeless People, 1969 and yes we are the timeless people, inextricable linked to our enslavement but determined and fighting, refusing defeat.

You Paule was a sweet gentle soul, A Lady – a suitable title for you who was always elegantly dressed, always soft spoken and who spoke with spaced precision as if every word was important.

I can’t imagine you ruffled or shouting.  You represent that Caribbean disposition of womanly calmness, reliable and sturdy as our yams, hardy like our cane, resolute like our mountains.

You gave me a view of the first immigrants to America; you taught me about Barbados and your Bajan heritage.

You gave me Ursa from Daughters, 1991, so I could better understand that regardless of where I live, my present and future are fissured by the Caribbean that birthed and reared me.

Most only know you as Paule Marshall (April 9, 1929), but your people know all your names (aka Valenza Pauline Burke) and they welcome you home, (August 16, 2019), the Bajan girl who would never fit into any box.

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