Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress – Playwright, Novelist & Activist

Alice Childress’s first full-length play, Trouble in Mind, premiered in 1955 at an interracial theater co-sponsored by a Presbyterian church and a synagogue in Greenwich Village.

According to accounts at the time, the audience “applauded and shouted bravos, and would not leave their seats until the author was brought on stage.” Despite initial audience enthusiasm, decades would pass before the play received the recognition it has today as a classic of American theater.

The show received an Obie Award for best original off-Broadway play that season and was slated to open on Broadway in 1957, but Childress herself pulled the plug on that production. Read More→

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Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall (1983)

Praisesong for the Widow is widely regarded as Paule Marshall’s most eloquent statement of the need for African Americans to understand and embrace their heritage even as they pursue equality and success.

Praisesong was initially published in 1983 and reissued in 2021 in a handsome edition by McSweeney’s as the second volume in its Diaspora series.

Praisesong is the first of Marshall’s novels to feature a middle-class Black American woman at its center, a woman who experiences what was also a defining moment in Paule Marshall’s own life: the Big Drum ceremony on the tiny Caribbean island of Carriacou. Read More→

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The Chosen Place, The Timeless People by Paule Marshall (1969)

The Chosen Place, The Timeless People, was the second full-length novel by Paule Marshall (1929 – 2019). Following her first novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959), she published a collection of four novellas in Soul Clap Hands and Sing (1961).

In its recognition of the intersectionality of race, class, and colonialism,The Chosen Place, The Timeless People was ahead of its time.

A New York Times reviewer called it “the best novel to be written by an American Black woman” when it was published in 1969. Such praise sounds patronizing in the present day, but let’s discount the reviewer’s limitations and focus on the recognition the comment represented. Read More→

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Paule Marshall, author of Brown Girl, Brownstones

Paule Marshall (April 9, 1929–August 12, 2019), born Valenza Pauline Burke, was a Brooklyn-born and raised writer of Barbadian, or Bajan, heritage.

Best known for her first novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959), her subsequent novels and stories touch on cultural and ancestral themes relating to the Caribbean. (Photo at right: Fair use image from

Both of her parents came to the United States from Barbados, and she incorporated the experiences of West Indian immigrants as well as the social and political perspectives of college-educated Black Americans into her novels and short stories.  Read More→

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Inspiration from Classic Caribbean Women Writers

How can writers reconcile the demands of the social and political moment with the demands of their craft? Caribbean women writers of color offer some models in the way they explore the rich intersection of concerns with gender, race, and colonialism through their work.

Anglophone writers with links to African and indigenous Caribbean cultures as well as to the United States or the United Kingdom (or both) express those connections with language, story, and rhythm.

Following are brief introductions to several classic Caribbean women writers, listed in order of their dates of birth — Rosa Guy, Paule Marshall (shown above), Georgina Herrera, Michelle Cliff, Mahadai Das, and Jean “Binta” Breeze. Read More→

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