PAULE MARSHALL was born Paula Burke on April 9, 1929, the daughter of Samuel and Ada Burke.Her parents had emigrated from Barbados, and Paule grew up in West Indian neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York.She kept close ties with Barbadian culture in both America and Barbados.She received a B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1953 and briefly pursued a master's degree at Hunter College while working as a librarian and a staff writer for Our World magazine. At the same time she began writing stories and articles for a variety of periodicals. She married Kenneth E. Marshall in 1950; they had one child and divorced in 1963.
Marshall's first novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones ( 1959), set in the West Indian neighborhoods of Brooklyn, tells of a young woman's struggle for identity in the West Indian subculture. Critics have characterized the novel as a Bildungsroman and compared it to Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God.It is marked by rich language, perhaps influenced by the oral traditions preserved in the West Indian community of her childhood, and sensitive character portrayal. The novel was a critical success but a commercial failure.
In 1960 Marshall was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to work on Soul Clap Hands and Sing ( 1961), her second book, a collection of tales bound generally by the theme of race. This volume, which won the Rosenthal Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, contains four long stories about African descendants in the United States, the Caribbean, and South America and their race relations with other immigrant groups. Marshall contrasts traditional African spiritual values with the commercialism and materialism of the New World.
Although Marshall received a Ford Foundation grant for 1964-65 and a National Endowment for the Arts grant for 1967-69, her next novel, The Chosen Place, the Timeless People did not appear until 1969. In this work Marshall examines, with the eye of an anthropologist, the changing society