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Praisesong for the Widow

In: English and Literature

Submitted By renk7291
Words 2087
Pages 9
R. Sarenka Smith
13 December 2013
Race, Civil Rights, and Literature—Paper #3

Cultural Heritage Through the Creation of Art and Language: Recovering Ancestral Identity in Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow

“People who can’t call their nation. For one reason or another they just don’ know. Is a hard thing. I don’ even like to think about it.”

--Lebert Joseph, Praisesong for the Widow

Paule Marshall’s autobiographical article “From the Poets in the Kitchen,” published a month before her novel Praisesong for the Widow, describes stories from her childhood that reflect the immigrant experience, addressing the constant presence of the Caribbean and its influence on Marshall’s life while growing up in the United States. Marshall’s mother and her female friends, immigrants from Barbados, would gather in the Marshall kitchen after their days of working in low-paid jobs to chat, gossip, and “tackle the great issues of the time” including the economy, politics, war, and their nostalgia for home. They discussed their adopted home, America—acknowledging both the racism they endured, and also the wealth of possibilities that the country offered. These women and their stories were, for Marshall, the origins of her fiction. She asserts that a writer’s ability to render everyday speech is derived from close listening, and the talk that “filled the kitchen” additionally functioned as a kind of therapeutic catharsis, a release of creative energy. The special kind of language used between certain groups of people gives writers their own narrative and unique language: “The principle means by which a character in a novel or story reveals himself and gives voice sometimes to profound feelings and complex ideas about himself and the world.”
Although Marshall ultimately transitions from the kitchen table to the library, she states that something was missing…...

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