In Memoriam: Paule Marshall

August 16, 2019

Paule MarshallPaule Marshall, a celebrated voice in African American literature and a professor emeritus of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, has died. She was 90.

Marshall was the author of nine books, including her classic debut novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones, a coming-of-age story set in Brooklyn during the Great Depression and World War II about the struggles of Barbadian immigrants overcoming poverty and racism.

She authored four additional novels, The Chosen Place, The Timeless People, Praisesong for the Widow, Daughters, and The Fisher King, as well as several collections of short stories. She also wrote a memoir, Triangular Road.

Marshall joined VCU’s faculty in 1984, following a two-year stint as a writer-in-residence. In Triangular Road, she described being hired by VCU, having previously taught at prestigious institutions such as Yale, Columbia University, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, the University of California at Berkeley:

… [T]his would be my first time venturing below the Mason-Dixon Line. True, I knew that Virginia was not considered “South” in the same way as Nina Simone’s Mississippi Goddamn; nevertheless I had misgivings. I needed a job, though, at the time. Then, to my surprise, once I completed the two years of my contract at VCU, I was invited to stay on as a permanent member in the graduate creative-writing program. And it would be a tenured position. My first real job and tenured at that! The offer seemed almost predestined, as if it was somehow important that I remain for a time in the former capital of the Confederacy.

She taught at VCU until 1994.  For more information on her life and passing please read the article in VCU News.