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Surveying the American TropicsA Literary Geography from New York to Rio$
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Maria Cristina Fumagalli, Peter Hulme, Owen Robinson, and Lesley Wylie

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781846318900

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781846318900.001.0001

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A Tree Grows in Bajan Brooklyn: Writing Caribbean New York

A Tree Grows in Bajan Brooklyn: Writing Caribbean New York

(p.22) A Tree Grows in Bajan Brooklyn: Writing Caribbean New York
Surveying the American Tropics

Martha Jane Nadell

Liverpool University Press

A number of writers originally from the American Tropics have lived and set their stories in Brooklyn neighbourhoods, particularly Bedford-Stuyvesant and East Flatbush. At the centre of Martha Jane Nadell's analysis is Paule Marshall's 1959 novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones. The novel has often been read as a coming-of-age or an immigrant narrative, but Nadell focuses on the insistent descriptions of the urban topography—more than just a setting—to argue that Marshall is primarily concerned with mapping the construction of Barbadian places within Brooklyn, none more important nor more intricate than the brownstone of the title. Marshall's novel is in one sense a history of house and family and community from the 1930s through to after the Second World War, with the house the particular site of the creation of what Nadell calls a ‘vernacular landscape’ containing spatial and visual indications of Barbadian identity, which inevitably echo yet clash with the images of an ideal island home. This detailed analysis of Marshall's novel is set alongside briefer comparative considerations of a significant recent writer, Edwidge Danticat, and an earlier figure, Betty Smith, against whose iconic text, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Marshall's novel was critique and counterpoint.

Keywords:   Brooklyn, Barbados, Paule Marshall, Brown Girl, Brownstones, Edwidge Danticat, Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Urban topography, Vernacular landscape

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